WINE SCHOOL 27 April 2015 - 3 May 2015

REGION: France > Burgundy > Côte de Beaune

The Côte de Beaune, in the heart of Burgundy, is home to France's - and arguably the world's - finest Chardonnays. The white wine's of the three most famous appellations - Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault - can reach peerless levels of intensity, complexity and length. Good-to-excellent red wines are made in Beaune, Pommard and Volnay.

Key red grapes: Pinot Noir
Key white grapes: Chardonnay


GRAPE: Chardonnay

If a country makes wine in any volume, the chances are it makes Chardonnay in spades. The grape's journey to world domination took place in the 1980s. With the brutal logic of the now international wine industry, indigenous ancient vines across the globe were pulled up and discarded in favour of the Chardonnay colossus. Bordeaux is now one of the few wine regions not growing Chardonnay (it is prohibited there).

Chardonnay's success is attributed to it being easy to grow and easy to drink. It seems difficult to make bad wine from Chardonnay. It can certainly make wine that is simplistic, over-oaked and lacking in nuance, but examples that are underripe or overly acidic are rare. Cheap Chardonnay will generally be fairly full, balanced and round. It could be thought of as the Coldplay of the wine world: unchallenging and predictable perhaps, but ultimately dependable and comforting.

Of course Chardonnay isn't just about mass market industrial wine; it is an incredibly versatile grape. It makes fabulous Champagne (Blanc de Blanc is a pure Chardonnay Champagne). In Chablis it is capable of wines of ultra high definition mineral steeliness. And in the Côte de Beaune (and, some would say, parts of California and Australia) it can produce lush, creamy, toasty, nutty, thrilling wines of untouchable tension and purity.

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Next week in WINE SCHOOL: Rioja (Spain) & Tempranillo

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