The world of wine is a wonderful place to play right now. We are at a grand convergence of sorts. Winemakers working around the globe have never had the benefit of such a deep, and concise, body of knowledge at their disposal. The understanding of clonal selection, terroir and basic viticultural practices is maturing in some of the most dynamic winemaking regions, allowing for world-class wine to emerge from some surprising locales.
Chardonnay is one of the world's great vinous barometers. It's planted in virtually every wine-producing region, and has adapted well to the vast majority of them. Whether steely, crisp and mineral laden or opulent, tropically fruited and barrel fermented, Chardonnay allows it's innate character to be massaged only so much. When you smell a glass of well-made Chardonnay there is no question as to what is in the glass.
2007 has blessed much of the world with favorable conditions for making excellent white wines. It's a perfect vintage to look to if one wants to survey the scene, and take stock of the state of Chardonnay. We recently took a look at the value end of the spectrum and found that there’s a lot to like.
What to expect: ChardonnayChardonnay is America's most popular grape and with good reason. Made in styles that range from steely, mineral laced wines with crisp green apple notes to buttery, rich, and laden with tropical fruits, there is a Chardonnay that will appeal to every palate. Chardonnay is mostly closely associated with France's Burgundy region and California’s northern valleys, though it has proven successful around the globe.
Incredible Values from California and Burgundy2007 Hess Monterrey Chardonnay
A classic California Chardonnay with a lovely, restrained quality. Shows really nice balance. The entry is soft and lush, and the restraint exhibited on the nose translates to the palate, with its creamy, yellow fruit and integrated spicy oak tones.
2007 Louis Latour Macon-Lugny les Genievres
Lovely in the mouth with solid acids supporting a broad, fleshy, yet fresh, mouthfeel with a touch of vanilla and hint of fresh baking spice embedded in rich apple, citrus and subtly tropical fruit tones. This has it all, richness, a suave feel, and freshness.
Additional wines tasted for this report.
2007 Davis Bynum Russian River Valley Chardonnay 14.9%
Intense, floral, fruity and sharp as a bell with precise cut citrus tones interwoven with nuanced oak notes. Opening with notes of pollen and honey on the attack this quickly fills the mouth with notes of ripe tropical fruits, a hint of banana, and background notes of honey and almonds that powers through on the long finish. The acidity here is quite lively and really keeps this rather large scaled wine balanced and refreshing. Real crisp wine even though it’s full throttle California Chardonnay 93pts
2007 Maycas del Limari Chardonnay 13%
Clear on the nose with a subtle biscuit notes over mineral and citrus oil fruit tones. An integrated smokiness does emerge with air but it remains quite restrained. Lovely freshness in the mouth, full of bright acids supporting fresh, ripe orchard fruits with a touch of melon. This is very well balanced with a surprisingly elegant mid-palate full of peach and lemon curd flavors that leads to a lovely finish with a surprising return of minerality. 91pts
2007 William Hill Napa Valley Chardonnay 13.8%
Slow to open yet unrolls slowly with sweet vanilla, crème brulee, cream, cedar, and fleshy yellow fruit tones. Nice balance and concentration in the mouth with deep flavors of caramel, crème brulee, orange peel, and sweet baked pear fruit tones. A touch viscous in the mouth but with good freshness, particularly on the sapid finish which shows a refreshing touch of mineral cut. The finish is a bit staccato but comes back repeatedly with balanced layers of cream and fruit. 90pts
2007 Kumeu River Chardonnay Village 13.5%
Perfumey and lean on the nose with white fleshed orchard fruits edged in dusty herbal tones. On the palate this shows a nice touch of richness yet maintains a light, balanced feel with an almost steely edge to the apple and lime oil core of fruit. The finish is cleansing and spicy with an almost salty note and a strong steely finale yet without much overt minerality, but this is zesty and pure. 89pts
2007 Cameron Hughes Chardonnay Lot 127 14.7%
Big and sweet on the nose packed with tropical fruit, fairly light oak, spearmint, lime leaf, and cream. Deceptively light bodied in the mouth with a nice fresh feel and light, transparent flavors of apple, pineapple and creamy spice flavors. Finishes with a strong burst of fresh fruit and surprisingly good length. There’s a touch of heat but nothing offensive. 89pts
2007 Ch St Michelle Cold Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley 14.2%
Tight and taut on the nose with restrained fruit and moderately heavy, sweet, walnutty oak. In the mouth this is big and rich with excellent acids but a thick, almost chewy texture that can be a bit much for many people. This just feels a bit unintegrated with the acid floating above the rich fruit. There are some really attractive peachy undertones on the palate and a touch of honied complexity leading into the finish where this really begins to shine. The finish is long and layered with notes of lemon curd, honeycomb, toasty butterscotch and that continuing undercurrent of peachy fruit. This is a lot of wine, but it’s certainly not for everyone. 89pts
2007 Antonin Rodet Macon Villages 11-14%
Delicate and quite floral on the nose with underlying notes of mineral earth, dried yellow fruits and slightly buttery, white chocolaty, oak. Vibrant acidity keeps this taut and vivid in the mouth with a bit of a creamy, lemon curd mid-palate fleshing out as it airs. There’s a nice layer of melony fruit in the mouth and excellent length for a modest Macon. This is fresh and delicious showing just a whisper too much oak but so sapid and minerally it’s easy to overlook. 89pts
2007 louis Latour Pouilly Fuisse 13%
Chalk and mineral on the nose with a touch of estery banana peel and a bit of leesiness. The fruit here is bright and clean and firmly in the spicy apple and lime and of the register. In the mouth this is focused and sleek with a richness of flavor but not the weight of many wines. The acids are bright, if modest yet balanced and the midpalate is clean and refreshing with wonderfully bright, floral and vanilla accented apple tones. There’s a streak of vanilla that runs through this but it’s really well integrated and a simple accent note to the fruit flavors. 88pts
2007 Thelema Mountain Vineyards Sutherland Chardonnay South Africa 13.5%
Fairly oaky but with a nice perfumed quality exhibiting a bit of toasted corn, cashew brittle and floral notes over the oak and tart apricot fruit tones. A fairly rich mouthfeel with plenty of sweet fruit, a touch of RS to help add roundness and soften the bit of tannin on the palate. Nice fruity finish with peaches, vanilla, and a touch of toasty oak. A pretty dense little wine. Could use some time to round out. 88pts
2007 Corinne & Thierry Drouin "La Roche" 13%
Soft nutty oak and spice notes meld with the ripe orchard fruits on the nose. Big apple and Asian pear fruit notes with a wild flower top note. This is surprisingly soft and expansive in the mouth with a lush feel and golden fruit notes that envelope the aromatic oak and spice notes. Very soft an easy going with nice Chardonnay fruit but this sacrifices a bit of height for breadth in the mouth. The finish is driven by a nice two-toned fruit and spice interplay that is subtle but with decent length. 88pts
2007 Simonnet Febvre Chablis Millesime 12.5%
This is all flowers and stones on the nose with a touch of damp fields after a rain. The fruit comes on slowly with subtle, crisp green apple and slight grapefruit edge. Nice acids on entry followed by a balanced mouthful of nice ripe Chardonnay. This is not as steely or mineral as many Chablis though it does have a nice edge to it that plays well off the apple and citrus toned fruit. Nicely balanced with a real burst of fresh fruit on the finish that sees a return of the acid on the attack with nice elements of Clementine and green apple. A sneaky little wine with easy drinkability and a please all character. 87pts
2007 Robert Oatley Mudgee 13%
Bright and piercing with an intense vanilla top note over lightly smoky caramelized pineapple and roasted apple tones with a touch of polleny flora hints. Round and rich in the mouth with a nice fresh feel, roasted pear and melon fruit, and nicely integrated sweetly spicy wood tones. The vanillin has a slightly toasty quality though the finish is fresh and bright with succulent mineral laced acidity. Good length as well. Well balanced silky and moderately rich. Nicely done. 86pts
2007 Bridlewood Winery Chardonnay 13.5%
Light and lemony, this smells crisp, uncomplicated, and refreshing with a hint of cedar wood. Easy and balanced with a slightly viscous, seamless feel this is a crowd pleaser with clean, clear apple and orange fruit tones and subtle hints of spice on the mid-palate. The finish is simple and very fruit driven with tangerine and a hint of vanilla. Orangecicle anyone? Easy to like, if simple. 85pts.
2007 Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 13.5%
This is full of tropical fruit on the nose with smoky, toasty, spicy woody notes and a touch of sweaty over-ripeness to the fruit. In the mouth this is rich and fairly fat with a soft feel. The mid-palate is fairly sweet with notes or caramel popcorn over the tropical fruits. The woodiness on the finish comes off as a bit bitter after the sweetness of the mid-palate. 84pts
2007 The Crusher Wilson Vineyard Chardonnay 13.5%
Intensely concentrated quince jam, old papaya, vanilla and bitter orange makes for an unusual and not entirely appealing nose. On the palate this lacks acid and is rather shapeless with modest fruit flavors and even the oak seems very retrained. Not corked since it’s finished with a plastic cork. No finish. Except for some grating wood tannin. An innocuous wine at best. 83pts
2007 Veleta Chardonnay 13.5%
Smoky and fairly oaky on the nose with paraffin, dried fruits and hints of blond tobacco with an off-putting dried meat tone even. Surprisingly light in the mouth with a very fresh feel, the oak is well integrated and the fruit crisp and pure, if slightly small scaled. This turns oakier in the glass with a toasty wood quality as opposed to a more buttery, vanilla laced quality. It is aromatically complex with a very fresh feel but the oak is a bit too aggressive. 82pts