A fresh look at Chardonnay

Study any subject long enough and after some number of years you’ll find that you have to re-learn a lot because so many things have changed. So it is for me, among other things, with Chardonnay.

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I’ve written about the rise and fall and subsequent rise of Chardonnay now and then. Rather than repeating myself, I’ll refer you to a couple of relatively recent reports: Chardonnay re-evaluated, published on Sept. 2, 2016, and Anything and Chardonnay, sent out to you on Sept. 20, 2019.

In the latter column I observed, “Chardonnay is ancient and arguably respected. In Burgundy it makes some of the world’s best white wines. It is the world’s most popular white wine, and the fifth most widely planted variety of any color. But Chardonnay has arguably had more ups and downs in the past 50 years than it had in the seven preceding centuries.”

I guess that’s why, even though the most affordable Chardonnay is rarely impressive, and the finest Chardonnay simply doesn’t fit my budget anymore, I keep coming back to Chardonnay for another try.

And when I do, I usually go cherry-picking in the most affordable, least sought-after realms of Burgundy: Bourgogne Chardonnay and Mâcon-Villages.

Bourgogne Chardonnay (and its sibling, Bourgogne Pinot Noir) are the most generic levels of wines produced in this historic French wine region that we know in English as Burgundy. Accordingly, they are among the cheapest. But even at the base level it’s decent wine, and by shopping carefully and looking for producers and importers that we’ve learned to trust, we can often score fine quality wines of good value. Typically, these days, that’s the $15 to $20 range, and in today’s economy, that’s a price I’m willing to pay.

Chardonnay grapes in Moillard's vineyards.

Chardonnay grapes in Moillard’s vineyards.

Today’s featured wine, for example, Moillard “Le Duché” Bourgogne Chardonnay, was well worth its price just under $20. It’s made by a family producer that has farmed its land in Nuits-Saint-Georges, in Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits, since before the French Revolution.

While Bourgogne Chardonnay, by definition, may be made from Chardonnay grapes grown anywhere in the Burgundy region and most likely not in the most favored vineyards – that’s why we can afford it – the family touch shows in a stylish, beautifully balanced Chardonnay with delicious white-fruit and citrus flavors, a touch of chalky minerality, and a beautifully balanced, lasting flavor. You’ll find my tasting report below.


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Today’s Tasting Report

Moillard 2018 “Le Duché” Bourgogne Chardonnay ($18.99)

Moillard "Le Duché" Bourgogne Chardonnay

Moillard “Le Duché” Bourgogne Chardonnay

Moillard “Le Duché” Bourgogne Chardonnay is a pretty, golden straw color in the glass, clear and bright. Delicious scents of ripe apples and pears center the aroma, with back notes of lemon peel and chalky minerality. Fresh, bright, and dry on the palate, its flavors follow the nose, with mouth-watering acidity, 13% alcohol, and a pleasant citric frame. Beautifully balanced and lasting, it’s an appealing example of well-made white Bourgogne in the affordable range. U.S. importer: Advantage International Distributors Inc., Miami. (May 7, 2022)

FOOD MATCH: A good Bourgogne Chardonnay like this should be versatile with a range of foods: Roast chicken or fish, rich seafood dishes, or entrees with cream or cheese sauces. It went very well for us with a Thai-style red curry with tofu and vegetables.

WHEN TO DRINK: It’s probably most prudent to drink Bourgogne Chardonnay within three or four years while it remains fresh.

Wine-Searcher.com lists an average U.S. retail from around $20 to $22., consistent with my $19 local price. It’s a fine bargain at this price.

Read more about Moillard and its portfolio at this importer’s link, where you can click for more information about its Bourgone Chardonnay and other Moillard wines.

Check prices and find vendors for Moillard “Le Duché” Bourgogne Chardonnay on Wine-Searcher.com.

Follow this Wine-Searcher link to read more about Bourgogne Chardonnay and find listings for dozens of other wines from the region.


Wine Focus May 2022: ChardoMay!

Chardonnay is our Wine Focus theme for the month of May. Is any grape simultaneously more loved and hated? Lauded as the grape of White Burgundy, and Champagne, and a punchline for jokes about book clubs, Chardonnay spans an incredible range of styles and prices. It’s made essentially everywhere wine is made, with grape trucked in from far away if necessary. It’s survived the buttery madness of 1990s California, the premature oxidation of Burgundy in the 2000s and still maintains its place as the top white wine grape.

Join the conversation in Chardonnay month, May 2022!


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