Tue, 08 July 2014
We’re not afraid to say it – it’s a really exciting time to be working with Chardonnay. And while we’re at it, how about we just name that tiresome elephant in the room right away? Yes, we acknowledge that this versatile white grape copped an extensive pounding to its reputation in the 1990s. And we think that there still might be a few ‘doubting Thomases’ out there, who aren’t particularly inclined to give Chardonnay another go. Well to help change your mind, let us take you on a bit of a guided tour through the nature of this gorgeous variety. And we’ll follow it up with an update on some of the exciting innovations that we’re bringing into play for the Taylors Chardonnays. We can absolutely guarantee that you’ll come across some superb surprises when exploring this beautiful white.
A noble variety
Now we mean this quite literally: Chardonnay is formally considered one of the ‘noble’ grape varieties, due to the superior quality of the wine that can be expected across a wide selection of grape-growing terrains. Chardonnay also demonstrates the enviable ability to pick up and distinctively deliver the local terroir, through subtle variations of minerality, bouquet and texture.
Like most great wines, there are of course squabbles about exactly where and when Chardonnay originated. And not even just the Europeans have tried to lay claim – as well as France and Croatia, Lebanon and Cyprus have also put forward claims about Chardonnay’s botanical provenance! Without doubt however, the Burgundy region of eastern France can take pride in producing some of the earliest and best examples of Chardonnay wine. And look – whatever the ‘truth’, the great thing about such passionate debates over wine origins is that they reflect that burning human desire to be part of something special. With Chardonnay, this has been magnified by the high quality and robust nature of this round and textured white.
Whilst at times a flavour chameleon, the Chardonnay often distinguishes itself across all geography with a magnificent and subtle flintyness, as well as a tendency towards flavoursome stone fruit characters. And due to regular displays of complexity across the palate, this noble white has the capacity to pair with a wide selection of foods, from spiced and herbed white meats to mature cheeses, fragrant curries and beyond.
Exciting stuff – Our clonal changes
In order to harness the beauty of the Chardonnay grape to her best advantage, at Taylors we’ve become deeply selective about sourcing the correct clonal variations to suit both our particular growing conditions and our signature winemaking methods. Getting technical, we have moved away from what is known as the Mendoza (or Gin Gin) clone, now favouring Bernard and Savvy clones for our Chardonnay requirements. In combination, the two Bernard clones that we favour (I10V1 and I11V1) and the Savvy clones 1 and 2, work together with their less dense structures to deliver incredible diversity and fruit complexity. Our project to identify and swap clonal identities where appropriate for our Chardonnay needs has involved 10+ years of painstaking trials. And it’s been more than worth the effort.
In drinking terms our Chardonnays are lighter in palate structure and weight, yet maintain a remarkable capacity to exhibit lots of fresh fruit and varietal expression. Also, it’s a stroke of luck that these clonal changes have coincided with upgrades to our fruit handling, including the gentler art of whole berry pressing. And it might seem the stuff of dreams, but we’re now incredibly happy to be creating Chardonnays that are simultaneously delicate in structure yet rich in both flavour and complexity.
Sticklers for the details – the perfect oak
We aren’t just particular about the clonal and fruit handling aspects of our Chardonnay creation. Less-worthy Chardonnays across the globe were once understandably labelled as ‘too oaky’, with some winemakers getting it all a bit wrong with inappropriate barrelling and oak chipping. Here at Taylors we’re extremely selective – ok, some might say finicky! – about our Chardonnay barrelling processes. For a start, we’ve researched and sourced the best French oak barrels on the planet. And it has to be French – lesser oaks have unfortunately added too much unsubtle strength to Chardonnay, causing some of the problems of reputation that used to exist for this wine.
Over centuries, the Burgundians in France have worked tirelessly with Chardonnay and Pinot, perfecting the craft of assembling the most worthy barrels for their wine-making task. And it’s that sort of exactitude that we know is right for the Taylor Chardonnays.
Medium-fine to fine-grain oak is crucial for subtle and restrained flavour across the palate, and the correct timber is therefore carefully sourced. As well as timber selection, the French also address such subtleties as barrel shape plus the distance of the flame from the barrel during production; too much flavour in the barrel toast and the wine can become unbalanced. In fact, even the individual forest of the oak’s origin can assist in developing particular complexities – for example, we know that the mouth-filling creamy softness of Vosges timber is an excellent choice for Chardonnay. Accurate combinations from different forests also allow us to perfect necessary subtleties across vintages, through careful barrel selection.
Worth the effort
If you haven’t already, take a sip or two of one of our gorgeous Chardonnays – the delicious and nuanced 2013 St Andrews Chardonnay for example – to experience for yourself the incredible lightness and flavour that has been brought about by our changes. We reckon it’s worth getting every little detail perfect.
As you can see, we take seriously every step of the journey for our beloved Chardonnays. Light in structure yet beautifully complex across the palate, our range demonstrates the delicious fruit and subtle toast that makes it all worthwhile. Just picture it… a setting sun, nice company, some spicy hors douvres and a cool, well-textured Chardonnay. Life couldn’t get much better than that!