LIQUOR / Chardonnay
With over with over 160,000 hectares planted world wine, Chardonnay remains the world's most popular white wine. Along with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay is the main ingredient in champagne and top quality sparkling wine and while it is often blended with both Pinot Noir and Pinot Meuniere, it is capable of making great champagne (labelled Blanc de Blancs) in its own right.
A relatively neutral variety, the best examples are usually made using techniques such as barrel fermentation and maturation, various degrees of malolactic fermentation and stirring of the lees in barrel (known as batonnage). The home of Chardonnay is in Burgundy where the wines of Chablis (less oak is used here) Meursault, Puligny Montrachet, Chassagne Montrachet and Corton Charlemagne continue to produce thrilling, complex and ageworthy examples.
Elsewhere, California (particularly in the cooler Sonoma and Central Coast) produces good examples that are at the bigger / richer end of the spectrum and New Zealand has a handful of producers including Kumeu River, Neudorf, Villa Maria and Bell Hill doing exciting things.
It is Australia though, over the last decade, that is making what many consider to be the best chardonnay in the world outside Burgundy and from a variety of regions including the Adelaide Hills in SA, the Margaret River in WA, and the Mornington Peninsula, the Yarra Valley, Macedon, Geelong and Beechworth in Victoria. Names to look out for (to mention just a few) include Leeuwin Estate, Cullen, Voyager Estate, Vasse Felix, Tapanappa, Shaw and Smith, Kooyong, Yabby Lake, Bindi, Curly Flat, Giaconda, Giant Steps, Coldstream Hills and Oakridge.
The Oxford Wine Companion to Wine, (ed) Jancis Robinson MW
As home to the greatest expression of pinot noir and chardonnay on the planet, Burgundy holds special significance as the place where these varieties reach their most complex and ethereal. However, understanding the peculiarities of the region and its wines can be extremely confusing. Burgundy is a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzled compared to Bordeaux's 100 pieces!
Burgundy covers five distinct districts, from Chablis (the most northerly), and Beaujolais (the farthest south), to the Cote Chalonnaise and Macon, but it is the 50 km by 1.5 km contiguous strip of vineyards know as the Cote d'Or, which is divided into two vineyard areas (the Cote de Nuits in the north and the Cote de Beaune in the south) that cannot supply the world with enough of its inimitable, incomparable nectar - as Kermit Lynch's Adventures on the Wine Route puts it.