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Saturday, 8 May 2021

Two Warm-Climate Chardonnays

Two warm-climate Chardonnays at different price points

Easy to grow and make into wine, easy to pronounce and easy to drink in a food-friendly sort of way, Chardonnay has a justifiable claim to being the world's most versatile grape, growing everywhere from chilly English chalk hills to sweltering Australian outback via Chablis, Burgundy and all points in between.

Chardonnay's strength is its relative neutrality which makes it highly versatile; it's the wine world's equivalent of chicken.

It also tolerates and responds to a wide range of growing conditions; in a cool climate, it is lean, citrussy and crisp with high acidity. In warmer climates, it has flavours of honey and tropical fruits.

Here are two distinctly warm-climate Chardonnays that show off the variety's tropical flavour profile.

If you find yourself liking the entry-level South African wine, the Spanish chardie is a good trade-up for more special occasions.

Eagle's Pass Chardonnay, South Africa (£7, Co-op - reduced to £5 until 18/05/21) 

South Africa has the planet's oldest soils and has no problem with ripeness; the challenge is more about maintaining acidity.

This wine comes from the Western Cape area which covers most of the wine-growing area and has the benefit of cooling sea breezes to help maintain freshness.

Honeysuckle, yellow stone fruit and toasty melonskin; rich, full and warming with sweet spices and ripe tropical fruits with some supporting oak.

Easy-drinking and thoroughly pleasant - serve well-chilled to enhance freshness.

An easy bbq / picnic quaffer, the ripeness will stand up to richer dishes, such as creamy curries or popcorn chicken.

Enate Chardonnay 234, Somontano, Spain (£12 - £14, Daniel Lambert, indies)

An area in the foothills of the Pyrenees, Jancis Robinson describes Somontano as "another Spanish wine region worthy of international attention". More specifically, she characterises it as a small and growing region, potentially one of Spain's most exciting, even if much of its produce tends to be fashioned in the image of international classics.

She singles out producer Enate, saying that they make some fine reds and whites from imported grape varieties.

Tasted blind, you'd be forgiven for having no idea where this wine comes from; it has a warm-climate topicality and breadth with a European complexity and elegance. It hints at the perfumed richness of Alsace with the waxiness of the Rhône.

Floral and aromatic with tropical citrus fruits and toasty leesiness; pineapple, melon and passionfruit with fennel, ginger and warming sweet spices; savoury, leesy and waxy with just enough freshness to hold everything together.

Very clean, pure and long.


Match with rich, Alsace-style dishes such as pork with creamy sauce or mature hard cheeses.

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