To celebrate the release of our 2020 Provenance Chardonnay, we thought we’d take the opportunity this week to learn some more about this exquisite, yet seemingly polarizing varietal.
Though its ancestral home is the Burgundy region of eastern France, Chardonnay grapes are now grown in almost every wine-producing region across the world. An esteemed member of the ‘noble grape’ society, Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted varieties, at just over 210,000 hectares (520,000 acres) worldwide. As such, it dominates a considerable proportion of the market. Due to its neutral character, Chardonnay is the ideal entry grape for new and developing regions. In fact, Chardonnay was actually the first-ever white varietal produced at Witches Falls!
Chardonnay grapes yield well, ripen early, and provide fertile ground for a plethora of different winemaking techniques. Many of the flavours commonly associated with Chardonnay are actually a result of outside influences such as oaking and terroir (environmental factors). That is to say, Chardonnay is made in the cellar, not so much in the vineyard. Often when people like the taste of Chardonnay, it is actually the flavour of the oak, or the qualities of oak maturation that they are enjoying.
Its vast adaptability has meant that Chardonnay can be grown and commercially produced in warm climates like California, South Africa, and Australia, where it tends to take on more tropical flavours, such as banana and mango, and oak chips are often added to enhance that oaky flavour.
The Technical Stuff
So, what gives Chardonnay that iconic, buttery flavour? It’s largely down to a process called ‘malo-lactic fermentation’ (MLF). MLF converts malic acid, a naturally tart substance that occurs in grape must, to a much softer-tasting lactic acid. Usually a secondary process performed after primary fermentation, MLF is standard in most red wine production. When used on white grapes (most commonly Chardonnay), a byproduct called ‘diacetyl’ imparts that splendid buttery flavour.
History of Chardonnay
Chardonnay’s popularity peaked in the late 1980s when ultra-ripe, ultra-oaked, sunshine-yellow wines dominated the market. The voluptuous, buttery mouthfeel and almost-overpowering oak of 80s Chardonnays did eventually give way to a new big name in the wine world: Sauvignon Blanc. From this point on, heavily oaked, buttery whites began to decline in popularity in favour of unwooded wines with fresh, zestier notes.
Witches Falls is Tamborine Mountain's only working winery, and as such we produce two delightful and decidedly different Chardonnays. By employing two distinct and separate winemaking techniques upon a single varietal, we are able to demonstrate Chardonnay’s immense capacity for diversity. Soft, golden, and buttery; our Wild Ferment Chardonnay is richly textured and delicately balanced. Aged in stainless steel, our Provenance Chardonnay is its zesty counterpart. Herbaceous aromas and a bright, citrusy palate afford this Chardonnay an easy-drinking freshness and fruit-driven palate not often seen in the Chardonnay varietal. Head in to our Cellar Door to taste these delicious drops for yourself!