DISCOVERING CHARDONNAY

SEVEN OF THE WORLD’S GREATEST WHITE WINES

The Chardonnay grape is famed for its versatility and expression, able to adapt to almost any of the world’s terroirs and winemaking techniques with great aplomb. This neutral variety holds within it the secrets to the world’s best white wines. Its love of oak, pure citrus flavours and unrivalled ageworthiness combine to produce wines which occupy their rightful place amongst the very greatest in the world of wine.

As any client or friend of ours will know, the entire Chelsea Vintners team are passionate advocates of all things Chardy – and, with that in mind, have narrowed down seven of our favourites (an almost impossible task!) which represent some of the most outstanding white wines being made anywhere in the world today.

MARCASSIN ESTATE, CHARDONNAY

The sensational Chardonnay wines from this Californian trailblazer have set a lofty benchmark for California white wine that only the very best can aspire to. Husband and wife team Helen Turley and John Wetlaufer recognised the untapped potential of the Sonoma Coast in the early 1990s, and now their Burgundian-influenced wines regularly feature not only in lists of the world’s best Chardonnay, but any fine wine bucket list worth its salt. And bucket list wines these truly are. Much of Marcassin’s production today is released exclusively to subscribers, and with an average wait time of 7-10 years to get onto that list, this is an endeavour requiring true passion and serious patience.

Perhaps the closest comparison is not to anything made in California, but a Corton-Charlemagne in a top vintage from the famous Jean François Coche-Dury– Robert Parker

DOMAINE DE LA ROMANEE-CONTI, BÂTARD-MONTRACHET

The wines of ‘DRC’ need very little by way of an introduction – the most famous and most sought-after estate in Burgundy is prized and coveted for its exceptional wines.

The DRC Bâtard-Montrachet is a wine that commands a mythical reputation amongst Chardonnay connoisseurs. The domaine owns a mere 0.42 acre of the famous vineyard and produces just two barrels from the plot, equating to a mere 600 or so bottles. The entire production is consumed exclusively at the domaine by privileged guests, and so information on the wine itself is scarce and the number of wine lovers who have tasted it even fewer. This is a Chardonnay that is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for an incredibly fortunate few.

DOMAINE D’AUVENAY, CHEVALIER-MONTRACHET

The legend of Domaine d’Auvenay speaks for itself – this is one of the greatest wine estates in the world, on a par with the legendary Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. The personal passion project of the ‘Queen of Burgundy’ Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy, d’Auvenay is considered by many as the benchmark against which every other Chardonnay in the world is judged.

The Chevalier-Montrachet wines are the undisputed jewel in the domaine’s crown, produced from a miniscule 0.16ha plot acquired in 1992 from Jean Chartron. The average age of the vines is 40 years old and annual production is usually less than 500 bottles. As rare as gold dust and infinitely more delicious.

GAJA, GAIA & REY

The Gaja estate in Piedmont may be best known for its seminal Barolo and Barbaresco wines, but their white wines are most certainly not to be overlooked. The Gaja family were the very first to plant Chardonnay in Piedmont, in a nine-acre Treiso vineyard planted in 1979, and the resulting wine is named in honour of Angelo Gaja’s oldest daughter, Gaia Gaja, and his grandmother, Clotilde Rey.

This wine was instrumental in redefining Piedmont not only as a source of sensational red wines from Nebbiolo but a true master of fine winemaking. Angelo Gaja demonstrated the true potential of this incredible region and in the process created what is simply one of Europe’s greatest white wines.

COCHE-DURY, CORTON-CHARLEMAGNE

Despite its legendary reputation for taste and quality, Coche-Dury in fact makes only one Grand Cru wine; the masterpiece of the Coche portfolio, Corton-Charlemagne, which Neal Martin describes as “liquid mineral. Imagine a limestone quarry being melted down and then distilled multiple times until there is just enough to fill your wine glass.”

Coche-Dury own just 0.88 of the 57 hectares that make up the Corton-Charlemagne vineyard, one of the most prestigious pieces of land in Burgundy where all the greatest producers in the region rub shoulders in their pursuit of the creation of the world’s best white wines. The yields from this tiny area give just a few thousand bottles per vintage, ensuring that demand for this breathtaking Chardonnay always far outstrips supply.

DOMAINE RAMONET, MONTRACHET

Buying into a Montrachet plot of land is usually something that only the most wealthy and ambitious producers attempted, making Ramonet’s purchase in 1978 one of the most legendary stories in Burgundy.  When Pierre Ramonet, grandfather of Noël & Jean-Claude, walked into a lawyer’s office in Beaune, he paid entirely in cash for twenty rows of prime Le Montrachet wines and then promptly departed back to the familiarity of his vineyards and cellar.

Today, Ramonet is to Chardonnay what DRC is to Pinot Noir, with holdings across all the greatest growing sites in Burgundy; the minimum vine age for the top cuvees is 18 years and these expressive, sensitive, sensational wines are indisputably some of Burgundy’s best (with a price tag to match).

OXNEY CHARDONNAY

Perhaps something of a wild card in a field where the competitors include some of the greatest wines in all of Burgundy, this English wine nonetheless represents perhaps the best still wine created in the UK to date. Rated an incredibly 20/20 by Matthew Jukes, this is the wine that all still English whites are now judged against and a heartening indication of the incredible potential of English wines.

Every sip reveals subtle new depths. The precise line of pure citrus acidity provides focus, but cushioned by softer notes of stone fruits, hazelnuts, oats and an elusive lick of butterscotch … the most resonant and beautiful English wine I have tasted” – Matthew Jukes

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