I have long being a fully paid-up member of the alternative ABC club – Always Buy Chardonnay (rather than Anything But Chardonnay) – whether it’s in or out of fashion makes no difference to me. As long as it’s well made, I like all the different styles it comes in – oaked, unoaked, tropically rich or mineral and lean (and that’s without going into fizz).
Here are two which are very different in style – one from a well-known Chardonnay producing area, and another where (still) Chardonnay is almost unheard of!
Hush Heath Estate Skye’s English Chardonnay 2015 (11.0%, £16.50 from Hush Heath Estate)
English sparkling wine is riding high at the moment – more and more producers are being set up and quality is constantly improving. English still wines are still very variable, in my opinion. Many of them are based on less well known varieties which were created to survive and thrive in cool German vineyards, but are less than celebrated elsewhere. Some Alsatian style wines have proved to be very good (e.g. Stopham Estate), but here is the first (still) English Chardonnay I have ever tasted.
Hush Heath Estate can’t claim anywhere near the same continuous history as a working winery compared to Beringer below – the current winery was only set up in 2010 – but the estate was created as far back as 1503 when Columbus* was still making his transAtlantic jaunts. Hush Heath make quite a broad range of drinks, including the cider I reviewed here and award winning Balfour Brut Sparkling.
And it’s an absolutely delightful wine! Not at all shouty, it’s gently delicious – in fact with both Golden Delicious and Granny Smith’s apple characters, plus a touch of citrus. I detected a little bit of residual sugar on the finish (a few g/L, though I’m happy to be corrected) which adds to the juicy round fruit character and doesn’t make it taste “sweet”.
As my opening suggested, some people just don’t like Chardonnay, but I asked a friend who is among them to try this and she was pleasantly surprised – “If only all Chardonnay was like this”. Truly a wine for both ABC clubs!
Beringer Founders’ Estate California Chardonnay 2013 (14.0%, €19.99 from stockists listed below)
The Beringer Brothers were pioneers of winemaking in the Napa Valley, now the most prestigious wine region in the United States. Their original winery is claimed to be the oldest continually operating winery in the Napa Valley (since 1876), which is rather notable if the prohibition era is taken into account. In fact, Beringer was the first California winery to offer tours after the repeal of prohibition – inviting A list stars such as Clark Gable might have helped!
From 1971 to 2000 ownership changed hands a few times, until it finally became part of the Australian Fosters Group, twinned with Wolf Blass to become Beringer Blass, and is now the stablemate of other famous Treasury Estates brands such as Penfolds and Wynns Coonawarra.
The Founders’ Estate series is a step up from Beringer’s Classic range and “offer[s] concentrated expressions of the most popular varietals, steeped in quality that comes from Beringer’s history of crafting great wines from all over California for over 130 vintages“. So how does the Chardonnay taste? Like a well-made Californian wine! Which should be no surprise, really. The fruit is ripe and tropical, with a little bit of juicy red apple and pear. There’s some oak here, but it’s not overbearing at all. This isn’t Chablis but neither is it an oak monster. Would be great with creamy chicken dishes.
Stockists: Clontarf Wines, Dublin; O’Driscoll’s, Caherciveen, Co. Kerry; Salthill Off-Licence, Galway; Hole In The Wall, Blackhorse Avenue, Dublin; Kellys Wine Vault, Clontarf, Dublin; La Touche Wines, Greystones, Co. Wicklow; Sweeneys, Glasnevin, Dublin; McHugh’s of Kilbarrack & Artane, Dublin; Amber of Fermoy, Co. Cork
Apple or pineapple? The choice is yours!
* The Explorer, not the Harry Potter Director / Producer
Disclosure: both wines kindly provided for review
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