Chardonnay | Vincabulary




Chardonnay [shar-dn-AY; shar-doh-NAY]

Chardonnay is proof that everything old becomes cool again. After attaining a pinnacle of popularity in the late 1980s, the inevitable backlash spurned the ubiquitous ABC movement – Anything But Chardonnay. Naysayers flogged the overoaked, flabby, mass-produced wines that had been pumped out to meet consumer demand worldwide. The adaptable and hearty grape flourishes easily in most climates and conditions, and is now one of the most widely-planted grape varieties on the globe, planted in more wine regions than any other.

The final results are a spectrum of flavours and styles – from sparkling to Chablis severity to Californian opulence to icewine. The Chardonnay grape itself is fairly neutral, owing a great deal of its flavour to vineyard and winemaking decisions. It’s a blank canvas for winemakers to colour and control – too oft, in the past, with overuse of wood. When oak isn’t allowed to overpower, the clean, crisp nature of the grape emerges. Cooler climates preserve this freshness and help balance the alcohol, which is naturally on the higher side. Higher altitude and latitude helps, as does aggressive pruning and canopy management.

Clonal selection is key too, as there are dozens of clones, each with pros and cons to be matched to site. When yields are kept low (remember – quality over quantity always), terroir can shine through. Chardonnay especially loves limestone and chalky soils – found in abundance in the grape’s traditional and glorious homeland of Chablis and Burgundy.

Don’t believe me that Chardonnay is becoming cool once again? There’s an entire celebration dedicated to it! The second annual International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration takes place July 20-22 in Niagara, and will showcase over 110 cool climate Chardonnays from 55 international and Canadian wineries. Thirty Ontario wineries started the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Association as a not-for-profit group dedicated to reinstating Chardonnay’s dignity. According to organizers, “It’s time for Chardonnay to return to centre stage. It’s time for the re-birth of Cool.”



La Chablisienne ‘La Pierrelée’ 2009
AC Chablis, Burgundy, France
$26-29 +359844  12.5% abv

Accessible bottle of Chablis from a choice site – La Pierrelée vineyard, hugging the River Serein, on Kimmeridgian clay and limestone. Exotic jasmine and floral musk mingles with crisp Asian pear, leesy minerality and zingy lemon zest.



Meyer Family Vineyards McLean Creek Road Vineyard Chardonnay 2010
Okanagan Falls, Okanagan Valley, BC
$35-38 *  13.5% abv

All the alluring aromas of apple pie – weighty slow baked apple, creamy butter and brioche, toasted cinnamon and nutmeg spice, and lingering honey. Mouthwatering freshness from first sniff to last sip.



Champagne Pierre Gimonnet & Fils ‘Cuis 1er Cru’ Blanc de Blancs NV Brut
AC Champagne, France
$64-75 *  +356675 12.5% abv

Blanc de Blanc Champagnes are 100% Chardonnay, prized for their focus, austerity and longevity. This elegant Grower’s Champers is crisp green apple, mineral, white flowers and lemon tart, with a clean, pure delivery and lengthy finish.



Domaine Drouhin ‘Arthur’ Chardonnay 2009
Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
$33-37 +231944  14.1% abv

I drink this and I think ballet. Graceful acacia blossoms and creamy French perfume overlay a muscular body strung with taut, lively acid. A big, hefty wine in a polished and graceful package.



Viña Errazuriz ‘Wild Ferment’ Chardonnay 2010
Casablanca, Chile
$22-25  +545392  13.5% abv

Wild, indigenous yeasts contribute to the expressive complexities of this wine. Potent toasty popcorn, sweet Meyer lemon, pear skin and herbal honey swirl kinetically with creamy lees and end with a crisp mineral finish.



Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2008
Margaret River, Western Australia, Australia
$30-34* +324079  12.5% abv

Hazelnuts dominate – from the toasted nut entrance aromas to the lingering nut shell finish. In between, ripe pear, subtle spice, cream and spiced apple are well knit with the round body and fresh acidity.



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*Asterisks denote wines that are only available at the winery or select private liquor stores. Some may be in limited quantities. All other wines are available through BC Liquor Stores – visit or download the free BC LiquorStores iPhone App for locations and availability. Prices may vary.


Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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