Hello Prince Albert! It’s that time again for another Chardonnay showdown! This is where I put two (or sometimes three) Chardonnays head to head to compare flavors and price points and see which one I like best. Remember, the price doesn’t always indicate which one will be preferred and instead, the wine is allowed to be tasted without preconceptions.
Two wines from completely different areas of the world are our subject this week with Chardonnay being the focus obviously.
First up is a Burgundian Chardonnay from a famous region known as the Maconnais in France. Chardonnay from this area is know for its citrus and stone fruit character with complimenting flavors of butter and cheese appearing in most examples. The term Macon-Villages on the Henri de Villamont bottle indicates that this producer has gathered wine from the numerous producing villages in the Maconnais area (26 villages specifically).
This region is also well known for using wine-making techniques that can enhance or soften the wine adding those finishing touches that separate good wine from very good wine. A great example is the technique called battonage where a large paddle (often operated by hand) stirs and folds the yeast inside the fermentation vessel while the wine ferments. This incorporates a creamy mouthfeel and flavors of butter or cheese into the wine.
The wines of this area are balanced and delicious because the winemakers take a calculated approach to making their wines. Some levels of malic acid are left in the wine while some percentage of the acids in the wine are converted to lactic acid (creamy flavors) using MLF. The skill and art of the winemaker is deciding which percentage to keep as the crisp flavors (malic acid found in apples/lemons) and which to convert to lactic acid (acid found in butter and cheese).
Moving much further south, we end up near the Australian coast in an area called the Limestone Coast. Chardonnays from Australia have developed a reputation for being thick and heavy with weighty flavors of butter and oak but many modern winemakers are changing the stereotype of Australian wine by creating products that are the opposite.
Cape Jaffa makes all of their wine near the ocean which aids tremendously in cooling the grapes and creating flavorful wines that also have a lovely zip of acidity. They often refer to their wines as “Made by the Ocean” which is a clever double-entendre referring to the effect the ocean has on the terroir of the region.
Cape Jaffa tends to create wines bursting with citrus and stone fruit while refraining from the heavy use of oak or too many finishing techniques. This results in wines that focus on the flavors of fruit and refreshing acidity. The winemaker was in Prince Albert for the wine premier a couple of years ago and his obvious passion when talking about his wine comes through in the final products.
I loved both wines this week but the winner for me is the Cape Jaffa! This is based partially on the value ratio for this wine. At $34 I really feel like I got my money’s worth. Check out both styles and decide for yourself! Here are my wine picks of the week!
Cape Jaffa Chardonnay 2018: (Limestone Coast, Australia). Dry to off-dry white, medium lemon color. The bouquet of this Chard brings soft, delicate notes of butter and cheese, fresh apples, pears, citrus fruit and hints of flowers. To the taste, the wine is soft and round with a smooth mouthfeel and slightly oily texture. Medium acidity creates a gentle buzz with buttery citrus and plenty of stone fruit on the mid palate. The finish is long with multiple flavors coming through such as garden peas, citrus custard, lilies, daisies and green apple and pear. Intensity sits around medium with medium-plus body. A beautiful sipping Chardonnay that will pair well with crab cakes, soft cheeses or light appetizers. Very good! $34, 13.5% ABV
Henri de Villamont Macon-Villages 2015: (AOC Macon-Villages, France). Dry white, pale lemon/straw color. This Chardonnay opens on the nose with a burst of seashells, wet rock, butter, soft cheese, vanilla, pears/apples and ocean/marine scents. The citrus flavor is full and upfront with grapefruit and lemon followed by stone fruit notes of apples and pears. The acidity zings on the palate at medium-plus while the wine feels decently full at medium-plus body. The mid palate is fairly long which allows the citrus and stone fruit notes to linger while the acidity keeps the palate lively. Saline mineral (wet rock), white pepper and vanilla all come in on the long finish. Savory notes emerge on the aftertaste: barbequed seaweed. Crisp and intense Chardonnay that ends up tasting softer than Chablis. Very good! $70, 13% ABV
Cheers and thanks for reading!