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Best Chardonnays outside Burgundy

Aside from the whites of Burgundy, which of the world’s leading Chardonnay regions should you turn to, and what are the top wines from each?

Chardonnay, most wine lovers agree, is the noblest white grape variety (we’ll allow Riesling enthusiasts a dissenting voice), and today it’s widely planted throughout the world.

It’s still fair to say that the best Chardonnay in the world is made from the premier and grand cru vineyards of Burgundy’s Côte-d’Or, but with mature vineyards and experienced winemakers working with the variety, the best examples from elsewhere are catching up with the best of Burgundy.

Malleable

Unlike its Burgundian stablemate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay has never been particularly difficult to grow. While it tends to thrive in relatively cool sites, it can succeed in a number of styles, from unoaked through to richly oaked, lean and minerally through to voluptuous and tropical. In short, it’s malleable.

This is a variety that winemakers love to play with, as they can easily exercise their skills on it, dabbling in all kinds of variables such as yields, barrel fermentation, malolactic fermentation (or its suppression), lees-stirring and more.

Introduction copy by Stephen Brook in the March 2015 issue of Decanter magazine. 

The best Chardonnays outside of Burgundy:

The following wines are some of our top scoring Chardonnay wines tasted by our experts, from regions outside Burgundy.

Best Chardonnay regions

France

Burgundy

The grands crus of Puligny- and Chassagne-Montrachet are considered the finest Chardonnays in the world, as well as the richer examples from the hill of Corton

Jura

Both oxidative and non-oxidative ‘ouillé’ winemaking produces Chardonnay of a very different style to Burgundy


Australia

Margaret River, Western Australia

A peninsula jutting out into the Indian Ocean, the region has a maritime character with wet winters and warm, dry summers

Adelaide Hills, South Australia

The altitude of the vineyards – reaching over 600m – lends freshness and moderation to the grapes

Yarra Valley, Victoria

Situated north of Melbourne, the hills of Yarra provide varying topography to ideally site vineyards, providing shelter from wind and sun

Geelong, Victoria

The maritime climate of Geelong, close to Port Phillip Bay and the Bass Strait, provides a long growing season for vines planted on varying soil types.

Tasmania

Australia’s coolest region, the island of Tasmania is as renowned for its sparkling wines as for its still Chardonnay wines


Argentina

Uco Valley, Mendoza

Vineyards planted at up to 1,400m above sea level provide cool conditions with plenty of sunshine


South Africa

Hemel-en-Aarde, Walker Bay

The narrow valley traps moisture-laden clouds, while the clay slopes have vineyards planted at up to 350m. In combination with the cooling Atlantic breezes, it’s an ideal location for elegant Chardonnay

Elgin, Western Cape

Very close to the coast, Elgin’s altitude, cooling breezes and morning mists are all beneficial for growing Chardonnay


USA

Russian River Valley, Sonoma County

One of Sonoma’s coolest AVAs, strongly influenced by cool ocean breezes flowing through the Petaluma Gap. Vines enjoy a long growing season, and the south of the AVA experiences morning fog

Santa Cruz Mountains, San Francisco Bay

Mountainous terrain offering cooler, west-facing exposures facing the coast and warmer, east-facing exposures sheltered from the ocean breezes


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