Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

The Many Guises of Beloved Grape ; THE DRINKS CABINET

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

The Many Guises of Beloved Grape ; THE DRINKS CABINET

Article excerpt

WITH its many styles and guises, chardonnay is the all-singing, alldancing fruit of the grapevine. Versatile and abundant, it's planted the world over and when chardonnay is grown in warm, sunny places such as California and Australia, it's rich, creamy and full- bodied.

Make a beeline for its spiritual home in cool-climate Burgundy and a September harvest of ripe, yellow-gold grapes will produce lean, crisp and minerally wines such as Chablis premier crus or buttery, nutty Meursault from the Cote de Beaune.

If you're still not convinced there's a chardonnay for you, Blanc de Blancs champagne is made entirely from chardonnay and is one of three classic grape varieties in a champagne blend.

To help engineer this paradox of flavours, oak plays a major influence.

Oak barrels impart a richness and characteristic woody notes, while unoaked means the wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and tastes more restrained.

Unoaked chardonnay is sometimes labelled 'naked', which just means there's not a single note of oak - and another reason to drink more of this beloved grape variety.

Australia's calling card, modern chardonnay is fruity and pineappley, such as De Bortoli Family Selection Chardonnay 2011, Australia, New South Wales, Australia (Pounds 6.48, Asda). This giant winery is famous for quantity and quality, and if you're shopping for good value and flavour, it's hard to beat this bright white with plenty of tangy stone fruits, a floral character and subtle use of oak on the zesty finish.

International Winemaker of the Year Neil McGuigan's latest release, McGuigan Reserve Chardonnay 2011, South Australia (Pounds 9.99, Sainsbury's), shows a fine balance between the use of fruit and oak. Crisp and refreshing with peach and apricot flavours and a hint of lime, it has a pleasant lemon acidity offset by vanilla notes.

Top chardonnays improve with age, and if you're prepared to flash the cash and spend circa Pounds 50 on a blue-chip label, the wine will reward after careful cellaring for up to five years. …

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