Cool Climate Chardonnay celebrates great white wines

Maison Louis Jadot 2012 Bourgogne Chardonnay (left) and Viña Santa Rita 2012 Reserva Chardonnay....

Maison Louis Jadot 2012 Bourgogne Chardonnay (left) and Viña Santa Rita 2012 Reserva Chardonnay. (Supplied)

Christopher Waters, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:29 PM ET

British wine expert Tim Atkin kicked off the fourth annual International Cool Climate Chardonnay celebration in Niagara by showering praise on the guest of honour.

Noting that Chardonnay plantings are increasing around the world, the London-based author and co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge suggested the world’s greatest white wine isn’t likely to lose its lustre.

“Chardonnay, I believe, will continue to be the white wine success story. Consumers love to drink it and growers love to grow it,” Atkin said during his keynote address at Brock University on July 18.

The International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration assembled winemakers from 58 estates in nine countries to showcase the diversity and adaptability of the grape variety. Over the course of three days, its unique attributes and crowd-pleasing appeal were on display to a collection of trade, media and consumers who attended various luncheons, dinners and tastings staged along the Niagara wine route.

Producers in attendance came from Burgundy and the South of France, British Columbia, California and elsewhere to share their wines and tricks of the trade with guests. The hometown industry was well represented by wineries, such as Hidden Bench Vineyards & Winery, Lailey Vineyard and Norman Hardie Winery.

“I do believe that fantastic Chardonnay can come from almost anywhere,” Atkin explained. “I think that while other regions might not have Burgundy’s exact soils, climate or heritage, more and more producers are making wines every bit as good.

“I think that the quality gap has narrowed to where it is almost non-existent. The gap that hasn’t narrowed is the price gap. I think that [Niagara winemakers] have a huge advantage over Burgundy in the sense that your world-class wines are considerably cheaper than Burgundy’s.”

The reason for Chardonnay’s enduring success is easy to explain, according to Atkin. “I think it’s partly the diversity of style. It can be dry, it can be off-dry, it can occasionally be sweet or very sweet. Sparkling, still, oaked, or unoaked. Throughout all of these different manifestations, I think it is an immediate grape variety,” he said. “Chardonnay is about pleasure.”

Wines of the Week:

***1/2 Maison Louis Jadot 2012 Bourgogne Chardonnay

Burgundy, France

MB $25.39 (867077) | ON $21.95 (933077)

This complex white is knit together from portions that were fermented in stainless steel and others that were fermented and aged in oak barrels. The result is a rich expression, with pleasing amounts of freshness and fruit flavours. Enjoyable on its own, this also would be a nice match for poached salmon or simply grilled pork or chicken.

*** Viña Santa Rita 2012 Reserva Chardonnay

Casablanca Valley, Chile

ON $13.95 (348359)

This good quality, good value Chardonnay comes from vineyards located on the coast of Chile. The mix of tropical, apricot and ruby grapefruit flavours make for an appealing sweet and sour profile that would be a nice match for grilled scallops or shrimp.


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