There’s so much focus on Prosecco these day when we’re looking for a good value sparkling wine that we often forget about the joys of Cava. This cuvée of mostly Chardonnay with 10% each of the three local grapes – Parellada, Xarelo-lo and Macabeo – is complex, dry, energetic and well-balanced, with fine bubbles, notes of pear, citrus and fennel and a long, faintly savoury finish.
White Varietal: Chardonnay
2020 Morandé Black Series Chardonnay, Malleco( £11.99, 13%, Majestic )
Ricardo Baettig produces this stunning Chardonnay with grapes from two sources in Malleco – Baettig (owned by his brother, Pancho) and Kofkeche – both of whom grow the 95 clone. It’s a brilliant first release from Morandé, making the most of one of the most exciting cool climate regions in Chile right now. Chiselled, scented and refined, with effortless balance, concentration and focus, flinty minerality and a pure, tapering citrus and aromatic spice finish. Amazing value.
2022 Athlon Limited Edition Assyrtiko, Macedonia( £6.99, 12%, Aldi )
Greek Assyrtiko has become so trendy these days that even Aldi are doing an own-label. The top wines, especially from the volcanic island of Santorini, have crept up in price, so it’s a pleasure to find a very drinkable example of the grape on the high street. This one hails from Macedonia in the north west of the country and was judiciously blended with 10% Chardonnay. Crisp and unoaked, with citrus, wet stone and chamomile flavours complemented by a hint of peach.
2021 La Chablisienne Petit Chablis, Chablis, Burgundy( £14, 12%, Marks & Spencer )
Chablis has had a run of warmer vintages over the last eight years, robbing it of the things that make it so distinctive – sea breeze freshness and chiselled acidity. But 2021 was a partial return to the later, cooler harvests of the past, and all the better as a result. This unwooded Chardonnay from the impressive La Chablisienne co-operative is tangy and textured, with citrus and oyster shell flavours and a pithy finish.
2021 Little Giant Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills( £12.99, 13.5%, Waitrose )
Australian Chardonnays have been through a revolution over the last decade, emerging as fresher, brighter and better balanced wines that work really well with food. This example from the cool climate Adelaide Hills is a real find at the price, with aromas of gunflint, lemon butter, and layers of peach and citrus zest. Beautifully balanced.
2020 Black Book Painter of Light Clayhill Vineyard Chardonnay, Essex( £20, 12%, Black Book Winery )
Painter of Light is a superb expression of one of Essex’s finest vineyards, made by the talented Sergio Verrillo. With aromas of struck match and popcorn, it’s fresh and elegant, with racy acidity and a cheesy, salty, nutty palate with subtle stone fruit undertones. Weighty without being fat, it’s what great pre-climate change Chablis used to taste like. One of England’s finest whites.
2021 Tesco Finest Western Australia Chardonnay, Western Australia( £8, 13%, Tesco )
I’m old enough to remember the days when most Australian Chardonnays were ripe, buttery and oaky. But the last decade or so has witnessed a remarkable transformation in the style of the country’s most famous white grape. This very lightly wooded, great value example from Howard Park shows you what I mean. Textured yet refreshing, with struck match and vanilla spice aromas, waxed lemon and grapefruit flavours and a taut, appealingly refreshing finish.
2020 Creation Chardonnay, Walker Bay( £12.99, 13.5%, Majestic )
Winemaker Jean-Claude Martin calls this his “village wine”, produced from 11 different blocks at Creation, tucked away at the top end of the painterly Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Deftly wooded in 10% new barrels, it has an engaging combination of citrus, pear, nutmeg and beeswax flavours lifted by acidity. A very impressive Cape white from a Chardonnay master.
2020 The Society's Chilean Limarí Chardonnay, Limarí Valley( £7.95, 13.5%, The Wine Society )
Chile is not as well known for Chardonnay as it is for Sauvignon Blanc, but it should be, given the quality of what’s being produced in places like Casablanca, Malleco and Limarí. This unoaked version from the country’s biggest winery, Concha y Toro, is ludicrously good value, with taut, tangy, chalky freshness, notes of lemongrass and melon and a creamy mid palate from time on its fermentation lees. Watch out, Chablis.
2019 Domaine Jean-Michel Charton Rully Thivaux, Rully, Burgundy( £18, 13%, The Co-op )
Is this the best-value white Burgundy in the high street? It’s certainly in with a very strong shout. Sourced from the village of Rully, which lies just to the south of the more prestigious communes of the Côte de Beaune, it would slot very easily into a tasting of more expensive wines from Puligny- or Chassagne-Montrachet. Subtly wooded, with lemon zest, crème fraîche and vanilla spice flavours, impressive acidity for a 2019 and a long, refined finish.
2018 De Martino Tres Volcanes Chardonnay, Malleco( £21.99, 13.5%, Great Wine Co, Waitrose Cellar )
Chilean Chardonay is on a roll right now, especially when it’s from vineyards in the cooler areas of the country close to the Pacific or way down south, which is the case here. The brilliant Marcelo Retamal buys the grapes for this world-class white from Francisco Baettig’s increasingly famous vineyard in Malleco. There was a little rain during the growing season, so the wine has a little bit of “noble rot” (botrytis) character, which adds a drizzle of honeyed complexity to its chiselled, racy, well-balanced palate, exhibiting flavours of cashew nut, citrus and wet stones. The oak is very understated, which is the case with all the De Martino wines.
2017 DeMorgenzon Maestro White, Stellenbosch( £17.99, 14.3%, Waitrose )
South Africa’s white blends are some of its most distinctive wines, even if they remain comparatively difficult to sell, given most consumers’ preference for varietal Chardonnays, Chenins and Sauvignon Blancs. More’s the pity! This is a superb five-way blend from one of the best white wine producers in Stellenbosch, dominated by almost equal parts Roussanne, Chenin Blanc and Grenache Blanc, with lesser amounts of Viognier and Chardonnay Mixing oak and concrete egg-fermented portions, it’s creamy, herbal and citrus-driven, with subtle wood, honeysuckle and baking spice aromas and flavours of peach, pear and quince.