Hump Day Hero: Chardonnay with Gareth Belton (Gentle Folk) Sophisticated or Smashable?

Chardonnay Chardonnay Chardonnay.

Chardonnay is the world's fifth most planted grape variety, covering more than 520,000 acres around the world (as of a couple of years ago). What I hadn't realised until looking it up is that it's the second most planted white grape behind Airén, a white grape variety that is heavily planted in Spain. The current Wikipedia article states that "a huge number of Airén vines are being uprooted, not least because the grape often produces an acidic and characterless wine", so perhaps in the coming years Chardonnay will overtake it? Having said that, here are 2 thoughts on all that: 
1 - whoever wrote that part of the Airén wikipedia article doesn't seem to think too highly of that grape.
2 - this is not a competition about which grape there is more of in terms of numbers, so we should move on to other aspects of Chardonnay.  

In Australia today, it's possible to buy Chardonnays that range from just $3 all the way up to $18,000 for a single bottle. There's a massive range, and part of the reason for that is due to Chardonnay's popularity, which also means that there is at least some Chardonnay planted in pretty much every wine region in the world. 

It's worth noting that most Champagne contains a significant portion of Chardonnay as well with a blanc de blancs Champagne containing 100% Chardonnay.  

A lot of people tried Chardonnay years ago and got turned off by the overly-oakey full-on characters that were more typical of the Australian wines of the 90's and 2000's. The last decade and a half has seen a shift away from that style, and there's some really top notch, amazing value Australian stuff available at the moment. A lot of it is really approachable and... perhaps both sophisticated and smashable. 

I've always loved the Gentle Folk Chardonnays out of the Adelaide Hills, and have known Gareth Belton (winemaker) for a few years, so I thought I'd ask him for a few of his perspectives on the topic: 

So Gareth, do you think Chardonnay is sophisticated, or smashable? (can it be both?)
Yeah it should be both for sure, as should all wine for that matter. I can think of no chardonnay I would like to drink that “needs time” and not delicious to drink out of the bottle. Yeah they may improve or develop some tertiary characters but must be just as delicious fresh….Life’s too short to drink shit wine, whether it be faulty or just plain gross.

We get the impression you love Chardonnay, so what is it that you love about it?

Its got all the bits, silkiness, acidity, aromatics and it displays its terroir, vintage (and winemaker) more than any grape I work with. It's also so widely planted around the globe you can see such a rainbow of styles.

What wine (or drinks) have you been enjoying recently?

Chardonnay :) Nah in all seriousness, I have been lucky enough to have a few bottles of De Moor Chablis over the last few weeks and they constantly blow my mind with their honesty and purity. Lots of Chianti also getting a work out on the kitchen table at the moment.

What music have you been enjoying recently?
Loads of Talking Heads!

Thanks Gareth!

Let's take a closer look at a a few bottles of Chardonnay we have available at the moment: 


The Gentle Folk 'Village' Chardonnay is a kind of classic and scrumptious style delicate citrus and stone fruit, and a nice savoury creamy finish. It's got a lot of depth for such a young and fresh Chardonnay - fantastic. 


The BK Carbonic Chardonnay is done in a non traditional style, using carbonic maceration (which is a technique that was traditionally primarily used in Beaujolais with Gamay) to give a different spin on this classic grape. It has a little bit of colour from some skin contact and bright flavours of green apple and white peach. Really different from the Gentle Folk Chardonnay, but equally delicious. 


For something a little different out of Tasmania, I really enjoyed a recent taste of the Sailor Seeks Horse (One Monkey) 2019 Chardonnay. It's from a cold climate (quite different from the Adelaide Hills wines above), and is a super refined, crisp citrus number. Sailor Seeks Horse says: "There is a delicacy and fine acid line to this wine that makes it tight and poised. It isn’t a Chardonnay for the more traditional ‘sunshine in a glass’ lovers.".

There you have it - 3 really quite different Chardonnays. It really can produce such a diverse array of wines, which is part of the reason why I love it and find it such a fun variety to keep constantly exploring. 

Well, that's it for this time Juiceheads!.. we'll be looking at something a little different next time with a chat to a Sommelier for a different perspective. xx

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