The grape guide

This week, Shane Quinn discusses Chardonnay and recommends some favourites

This week, Shane Quinn discusses Chardonnay and recommends some favourites

We Irish don’t really do class all that well. When it comes to wine we excel in our ignorance. Even after almost twenty years of a wine boom here, we still ask for white or red in a restaurant. The more cultured of us may be able to name a few grapes but our eagerness to learn about wine has followed slowly after our enthusiasm to drink it.

Chardonnay, on its own, is as varied a grape as you will find. Each region and each producer is different. Each has its own attributes and idiosyncrasies and each will appeal to different palates. The success of this grape in recent years has been overwhelming and due in no short part to its easy-to-pronounce name and easy-to-pay price. The near-flooding of the market with wine made from this grape has brought prices tumbling but in some cases the quality has descended in tow.

Chardonnay is grown in practically every wine-producing country (apparently in China now too.) The wines are usually oaked but with varying degree (a factor which affects the aptitude of the wine to certain foods.)

Chardonnay is extremely sensitive to climate and the skills of the producer, so its variety is unrivalled by any other grape, red or white.
Burgundy is still this author’s favourite. Burgundy whites are all Chardonnay, so the competition is fierce. Burgundy offers characteristically dry whites but hints of spices and hazelnut can be found in some of the top wines there.

The Chablis region of Burgundy produces crisp, dry wines with fruity overtones that are known the world over for their high quality.

New World Chardonnays are currently crowding the market. South African examples tend to be subtly oaked while Californian and Australian Chardonnays are traditionally spicy, while Chilean Chardonnays from the Lamari and Elqui regions are heavily influenced by the Pacific breeze.

Most Chardonnays accompany white meats very well and roast chicken in particular. Chablis tends to go well with pork, oysters and salads. New World Chardonnays are a perfect match for seafood dishes while the more oaky ones go very well with smoked fish.

This wine cannot be beaten on price. Some of my favourites include the Chilean Ariki Chardonnay (2007), which can be picked up for €5.99 in O’Brien’s, and Brocard Chablis (2006), which will set you back €15.99, but it will develop into a more structured and powerful wine in a few years (don’t worry, though, you can enjoy it now as well.)