Thursday, May 24, 2012

Third Annual Chardonnay Day – Chardonnays Around the World, Snooth’s Top Picks and Hamilton Russell Vineyards in South Africa

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Anthony Hamilton Russell and Gregory Dal Piaz, the Editor in Chief of Snooth.

Today is the third annual #Chardonnay day. This is a global event set to run 24 hours in order to give everyone time to have a glass of Chardonnay when it makes sense in their time zone. All you have to do is share on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare or any other social site using the #Chardonnay hash tag all day May 26th. You'll be able to search what other wine lovers are sharing by searching posts using the #Chardonnay hash tag.

For the second annual Chardonnay Day see:  A Global Event: Second Annual Chardonnay Day (@Chardonnay) #Chardonnay

Chardonnays Around the World

Chardonnay is grown wherever wine is made, from England to New Zealand, although the best Chardonnay comes from the Bourgogne. It is one of the most widely-planted grape varieties in the world, with over 175.000 hectares.

Chardonnay first rose to prominence in the Chablis, Bourgogne and Champagne regions. The Bourgogne Chardonnays were long considered the benchmark standard of expressing terroir through Chardonnay. In Chablis, Chardonnay is the only permitted AOC grape variety. The wines rarely go through malolactic fermentation or are exposed to oak. The biting, green apple-like acidity is a trademark of Chablis. In the Champagne, it is most often blended with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Champagne, Chablis and Burgundy account for more than 3/5 of all Chardonnay plantings in France.

In the US, Chardonnay found another region where it could thrive in California. The early trend to imitate the Bourgogne wines soon gave way to more buttery and oaky styles. New oak barrels coupled with malolactic fermentation were used to produce wines that were big in body and mouthfeel, and high in alcohol. In recent years, Californian winemakers have been trying to go back to more Old Word Chardonnay, leaner, using less oak and lower alcohol levels.

In Australia, the export driven wine industry was well situated for the Chardonnay boom of the 1980s and 1990s. Now being more famous for its Sauvignon Blanc production, Chardonnay was New Zealand's most widely planted grape variety until only a few years ago.

In conclusion, the area planted with Chardonnay throughout the world is estimates at over 175.000 hectares, with the US and France accounting for about half of it, and Australia, Italy and Modavia for another quarter.

1. U.S.A. : California : 44 509 ha ; Oregon and Washington : 3 203 ha
2. France : 35 252 ha (Bourgogne, Jura, Champagne, Loire Valley, Midi, Charentes).
3. Australia : 22 528 ha
4. Italy : 11 800 ha
5. Moldavia : 8 000 ha
6. South Africa : 7 927 ha
7. Chile : 7 561 ha
8. Slovenia : 3 565 ha
9. Argentina : 5 155 ha
10. New Zealand : 2 449 ha
11. Spain : 2 200 ha
12. Bulgaria : 2 000 ha
13. Romania : 650 ha
14. Israel : 600 ha
15. Portugal : 500 ha
16. Hungary : 500 ha
17. Greece : 500 ha
18. China : 500 ha
19. Other: Uruguay, Brazil, Canada, Austria, Morocco, Germany, Switzerland.

Snooth - Top 10 Chardonnay Producers

Gregory Dal Piaz, the Editor in Chief of Snooth, issued recently a list of his top 10 Chardonnay producers in the world, which I found very interesting. Snooth is a social networking website based in New York City, USA that has very successfully built an online community for wine drinkers over the past 6 years. I met Gregory last year at the EWBC 2011 in Brescia:"Blogging, Wining and Dining at the European Wine Bloggers Conference (#EWBC) October 2011 in Brescia, Italy – A Tour D’ Horizont"

Pictures: I shared the table with Gregory at the final dinner of the EWBC 2011.

Gregory: “I have put together my top 10 list of Chardonnay producers around the world. While this is a pretty comprehensive list, I do want to remind you that my top 10 lists always take pricing into account. I limit my purchases of wine to a rather extravagant $100 bottle, so don’t be surprised to not see the greatest white Burgundies here.

1. Domaine Leflaive is one of the big Burgundian négociants.

2. David Ramey has been a top California winemaker for decades.

3. Neudorf - Along with Kumeu River, Neudorf has emerged as one of the finest producers of Chardonnay in New Zealand.

4. Domaine Louis Carillon - A real benchmark for me.

5. Kumeu River  - A Chardonnay specialist. It’s not often that you see that, but New Zealand’s Kumeu River really does specialize in Chardonnay, putting out several bottlings.

6. Christian Moreau - While I don’t drink a ton Chardonnay, I drink more than my share of Moreau Chablis.

7. Hamilton Russell - A South African Chardonnay is one of my favorites? You bet.

8. Dutton Goldfield - If you’re looking for terroir and elegance in California Chardonnay, you really have to do some searching. Or you could just pick up a bottle of Dutton-Goldfield.

9. La Chablisienne - I might get grief for this selection, but La Chablisienne is a huge co-op producing tons of wine and rarely gets mentioned when talk turns to either great co-ops or Chablis.

10. Joseph Drouhin/Domaine Drouhin - I’m cheating a bit and combining two properties, but Drouhin does a simply amazing job with both Chardonnay.”

Burgundy Wines in South Africa: Hamilton Russell Vineyards

Indeed, a very interesting list. I was happy to see Hamilton Russell Vineyards on the list. The stop at Hamilton Russell Vineyards, the producer of outstanding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines in the Hemel en Aarde (Heaven and Earth) valley, just behind the seaside resort of Hermanus in Walker Bay, was our last stop on a recent South Africa wine trip, but it was one of our best stops.

The Hamilton Russel Vineyards has become a hallmark of fine South African Pinot Noir and Chardonnay over the last few decades. “We want to produce wines as Burgundian as possible here in South Africa – Wines from South African soil with a Burgundian soul” says Anthony Hamilton Russell, the owner of the estate “notwithstanding the rather warm climate in South Africa. But the climate is rather cool here in the Hemel en Arde valley. And we have the right soil for the Pinot Noir and the Chardonnay”.

Hamilton Russell Vineyards produces 20.000 cases of Chardonnay every year. Low yields is one of the guiding principles at Hamilton Russell Vineyards along with organic farming. In 2008, for example, the yields amounted to 35 hectoliters per hectar for the Chardonnay.

Pictures: Christian G.E.Schiller and Anthony Hamilton Russell of Hamilton Russell Vineyards, Producer of Outstanding Chardonnay in the Hemel en Aarde (Heaven and Earth) Valley in South Africa.

Anthony took us through a tasting of 4 Pinot Noirs and 3 Chardonnays, from the vintages 2006 to 2010. Overall, the Chardonnays were tight, mineral wines with length and complexity. They were elegant, yet textured and intense wines with a strong personality of place.

schiller-Wine: Related Postings

A Global Event: Second Annual Chardonnay Day (@Chardonnay) #Chardonnay

Sylvain Bzikot's Puligny Montrachet, Bourgogne, France

Meeting Matthieu Mangenot, Managing Director of Domaine Long-Depaquit in Chablis, France and Tasting His Wines

The Best Chardonnays of the World - The 17th Annual Chardonnay du Monde® Wine Competition 2010

The California Central Coast Wines of Talley Vineyards

Dennis Cakebread and his Wines, Napa Valley, at EVO Bistro, Virginia

Where the SAP Bosses Buy Their Wines – Weingut Bernd Hummel in Baden, Germany

Burgundy Wines in South Africa: Hamilton Russell Vineyards

As Close as You Can Get to (French) Champagne at the US East Coast – Claude Thibaut and His Virginia Thibaut Janisson Sparklers at screwtop Wine Bar

Blogging, Wining and Dining at the European Wine Bloggers Conference (#EWBC) October 2011 in Brescia, Italy – A Tour D’ Horizont

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