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Wednesday, 3 June 2020

The CWB Chardonnay Off: Burgundy vs California

A tale of Two Chardonnays - Burgundy and California

Pernot Belicard Bourgogne 2012
Talbott Chardonnay, Sleepy Hollow, 2016

Winebird Helena Nicklin characterises Chardonnay as the "Kate" of wine; a highly versatile grape with many personas from lean and steely "supermodel Kate" (Moss) Chablis to oaky "buxom centrefold Katie" (Price) sunshine-in-a-glass.

Easy to grow and easy to say, Chardonnay was everyone's favourite white in the '90s; until we all went off it and moved on to kiwi Sauvignon.

These two Chardonnays are classy, sophisticated "Oscar-winning Katharine" (Hepburn). One is an actual white Burgundy, from a winemaker based in Puligny-Montrachet; the other a fair impression of it, in a Beaune style, from California. With its warmer climate, the Californian is the bigger of the two at 14.1% alcohol, but it doesn't feel blowsy.

Being a few years younger, the American is also more primary and fruited; this apparently appeals more to US palates in general who consider a mature wine to be past its best, but being European I rather like the more complex, secondary flavours that develop with evolution.

Pernot Belicard Bourgogne 2012 (£15, Cambridge Wine Merchants) evolved nose of old leather and cellar mustiness with dried orchard and stone fruits, savoury roasted nuts and beurre noisette. Focused and mineral.

Fully mature and drinking nicely now.


Needs food due to its savouriness; match with lighter game, such as partridge, monkfish with beurre noisette or hard cheeses.

Talbott Chardonnay, Sleepy Hollow, 2016 (£35.99, Wine Rack) ripe orchard fruits, melon and creamy-buttery oatmeal flecked with vanilla, brioche and linear minerality. Concentrated, intense and adept.

Improves with aeration and will repay cellaring.

Very Good.

An easy sipper with plenty of fruit as well as a versatile food wine; match with plain roast white meats or creamy mushroom pasta.

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