At Home Masterclass #2: Explore the different styles of Chardonnay and Bordeaux Blends from across the world
Chardonnay and Bordeaux can be considered some of the most recognisable and influential references of the wine world. In their French forms they defined, for decades, what fine-wine lovers were savouring and collecting. So much so that both styles were swiftly replicated around the world. Having both overcome a dip in popularity, we are witnessing a (long overdue!) interest in both categories… it seems that a classic never really goes out of style!
Chardonnay is by many accounts one of the most well-known varieties in the world. Very few other grapes can rival with it in terms of popularity, versatility and… divisiveness.
From the pure, mineral expressions produced in Chablis, to the majestically broad Californian examples, Chardonnay offers an almost infinite array of styles to wine lovers across the world. From its homeland in Burgundy, it has adapted and expanded to many different countries and terroirs, with fine examples now found virtually in any wine region.
Once affected by the so-called “Bridget Jones effect”, consumers seemed to have finally passed the “Anything-But-Chardonnay” phase and embraced this grape once again. Given the variety of styles and different nuances that the places and winemakers can impart on this chameleonic variety, it seemed about time to us!
Let us guide you through some different expressions of Chardonnay to show how the variation in terroir and winemaking produce startling differences in the wines!
2018 Chardonnay Banghoek Reserve, Delaire Graff, Stellenbosch, South Africa
The first wine in the line-up is an elegant, complex wine stemming from grapes of the Delaire Graff Estate’s mountain vineyards. The altitude of the sites and the particular soil composition of Stellenbosch produces grapes full of flavour, balance and finesse. While French oak was used in the fermentation and ageing of this wine, no malolactic fermentation was carried out to retain freshness.
An elegant, balanced expression of Chardonnay that brims with aromas of peaches, honeycomb, vanilla and brioche and lingers with a long, mineral finish.
2015 Province Chardonnay, Astrolabe, Marlborough, New Zealand
Our second Chardonnay is another New World release but from a totally different climate. Crafted from Chardonnay grapes sourced from the Astrolabe Farm Vineyard in the lower Wairau Valley and Wrekin Vineyard in the Southern Valleys of Marlborough, this cuvée is about precise aromatics and elegant texture.
The relatively cool climate of Marlborough filters through bright notes of melon, citrus fruit, lime and minerality. The winemaking process, with ageing in French oak, lees-stirring and malolactic fermentation adds a creamier element to the wine that translates into elegant notes of crème brûlée, nuts and dried stone fruits.
2013 Bourgogne Blanc, Maison, Maison de Montille, Burgundy, France
The Bourgogne Blanc from the revered Maison de Montille seems an apt beginning to the discovery of the nuances of this grape variety. Chardonnay is the flagship white grape of the region and one that is interpreted in many different ways, from steely Chablis to voluptuous Meursault.
This cuvée is a textbook white Burgundy, with juicy notes of yellow apples, pears and ripe lemon and bergamot all accompanied by sweeter aromas of vanilla, toast and yogurt. The wine has a beautiful dense texture to it but is kept in perfect balance by lively freshness and a touch of minerality.
Another prevailing name in the wine world, Bordeaux is arguably one of the most famous and influential regions in the world. The structured wines that were originating from the homonymous region have defined for decades what fine-wine lovers were drinking and collecting. What makes Bordeaux and Bordeaux-inspired wines exceptional is the balance, structure and longevity they insure through blending of different grape varieties and different micro-parcels.
The classic Bordeaux has always been a blend of different grape varieties, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot playing the lion share. Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere complete the array of what cultivars are allowed in the region and offer a different hedge to the different appellations. Achieving the right ripeness and reliable volume in the maritime, wet climate of Bordeaux has never been an easy task. Winemakers incorporated different grape varieties to create balanced wines that became renown for their structure and longevity.
The regions influence has been unparalleled across the globe, with Bordeaux-inspired blends being the core of fine wine regions from the USA to Australia and inspired some of the biggest names in the fine-wine world, from Opus One in Napa Valley, Tenuta San Guido in Bolgheri to Penfolds in Australia. These new regions have now come into maturity and it has been an exciting process to see how they have adapted the style to their own terroirs and house styles.
2017 Le Volte dell’Ornellaia, Ornellaia, Tuscany, Italy
From one of the names that made history of Italian wine, this entry-level, every day interpretation of a Bordeaux blend is truly a wine that surprises every time we taste it!
Another Merlot-dominated blend, Le Volte dell’Ornellaia is a juicy, structured, sunny wine that marries the classic flavour profile of Bordeaux with a unique Mediterranean exuberance. Cherries, figs, plums are framed by notes of wildflowers, rosemary and thyme, culminating in a luscious, moreish finish that will accompany effortlessly all classic Italian dishes!
2014 Ruhanui Organic, Stonecroft, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
New Zealand is probably not the first country that springs to mind when thinking about Bordeaux blend, but Stonecroft has been crafting a Merlot/ Cabernet Sauvignon blend that can rival its counterparts in the Old World.
Sourced from the family Roy’s Hill vineyard in Hawke’s Bay, Ruhanui bursts with lovely summer fruit, plum, rhubarb and blackcurrant notes. The time spent in barrel gives the wine subtle notes of leather, cedar and forest floor. Structured and precise, Ruhanui is an elegant interpretation of these grape varieties that is very approachable now.
2013 G'Acte 5, Bordeaux Superieur, Bordeaux, France
Sourced from one of the least known appellations of Bordeaux, Fronsac, G’Acte 5 is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Under the watchful eye of the Guinaudeau family of Château Lafleur, this intriguing blend is a classic, elegant Bordeaux blend.
Brimming with juicy red fruit, figs and plums as well as sweet spices, tobacco and a menthol, wild herbs hedge, it is a wine that entices with the perfect balance of fruit and more complex, hearty flavours. A lovely, seductive palate keeps in equilibrium, power, finesse, structure and aromatics.