Chardonnay grapes in a vineyard
Chardonnay grapes in a vineyard
Image: 123RF / Kiko Jimenez

Chardonnay is one of the most popular white wine cultivars in the world, and for good reason. More versatile than a Swiss army knife, if you think you know chardonnay – drink again!

South Africa’s diverse range of wine regions and winemaking styles has created a selection of chardonnay options to suit any palate. Having only really taken root in our soils about 30 years ago, the chardonnay grape (originally from France) tends to reflect its terroir like few others. Yet, it’s what happens in the cellar that makes all the difference…

Malolactic fermentation leads to a buttery chardonnay, while leaving the wine on the lees can create a creamy texture. Oak ageing will impart toasty, vanilla flavours, while no wood will allow green fruit flavours and minerality to rise to the fore and, of course, some of the finest sparkling wines in the country are either blanc de blancs (100% chardonnay) or are a blend that includes it.

Chardonnays tend to pair exceptionally well with risotto, pasta, paella and chicken, while unoaked varieties take shellfish and other fish dishes to a whole new level of sublime. A rich, barrel-fermented chardonnay can even stand up beautifully with a good steak.

So, as the temperatures begin to dip, don’t hold back from pulling out a bottle of chardonnay in front of a roaring fire - it’s one of the few whites that’s just at home in winter as it is beside the pool in summer.

WADE BALES’ CURRENT TOP 5 CHARDONNAYS:

Colmant Cap Classique Brut Chardonnay NV

Lively bubbles carry flavours of vivacious – and typical – citrus zest, set against a creamy backdrop of minerality. It is the epitome of chardonnay expression – fine, elegant and fresh.

Colmant Cap Classique Brut Chardonnay NV
Colmant Cap Classique Brut Chardonnay NV
Image: Supplied

Glenelly Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2014

The precise use of oak barrels gives this wine a very “old-world” feel, balanced by a beautiful “new-world” fruit profile of citrus and lime.

Glenelly Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2014
Glenelly Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2014
Image: Supplied

Groot Constantia Chardonnay 2017

Intense citrus, ranging from fresh lemon to ripe Mandarin orange on the nose, followed by hints of vanilla and butterscotch. The wine shows intensity on the palate and has an amazing long aftertaste.

Groot Constantia Chardonnay 2017
Groot Constantia Chardonnay 2017
Image: Supplied

Edgebaston Chardonnay 2015

Boasting an elegant minerality with lime-citrus, sourdough and cinnamon flavours, there’s a wonderful acid grip on the palate, and a floral note of wild, white flowers on the nose.

Edgebaston Chardonnay 2015
Edgebaston Chardonnay 2015
Image: Supplied

Paserene Chardonnay 2015

This wine is truly unique in its aromatics. On the palate it is tight, yet soft. Beautifully integrated oak brings roundness and a supple mouth-feel that is complemented by a racy acidity and the considerable weight of this wine.

Paserene Chardonnay 2015
Paserene Chardonnay 2015
Image: Supplied

Wade Bales is the Founder of Wade Bales Fine Wines & Spirits: wadebales.co.za

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