Conversations in Chardonnay


Conversations in Chardonnay

Bar None

with Debbian Spence-Minott

Thursday, May 21, 2020

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So far, we have shared some interesting facts about the riesling and merlot grape varietals. This week our focus shifts to chardonnay, a green-skinned (white) grape variety used in the production of white wine. Chardonnay originated in the Burgundy wine region of eastern France but is now grown wherever wine is produced. To say chardonnay is popular is an understatement. The chardonnay grape can be described as neutral, with many of the flavours commonly associated with the wine being influenced by terroir and oak. Chardonnay wines are expressed in many styles, from the lean, crispy mineral wines of Chablis, France, to New World wines with oak and tropical fruit flavours. Chardonnay's popularity peaked in the late 1980s, then gave way to a backlash among those wine connoisseurs who saw the grape as a leading negative component of the globalisation of wine.

Fun Facts About Chardonnay

• Chardonnay is now the most widely planted white grape variety, globally. It surpasses Spain's Airén and Italy's Trebbiano.

• Chardonnay is a major grape in Champagne, and other sparkling wines, such as Crémant, Franciacorta, and Trento.

• The grape originated in a small village of Chardonnay in France. The name originally meant “place of thistles” or “thistle-covered place”.

• By law, if a label says “Chablis,” it must be 100 per cent chardonnay harvested from the Chablis region of France.

By law, if a label says “Pouilly Fuissé,” it must be 100 per cent chardonnay harvested from the Pouilly Fuissé, Maconnais region of France.

• If you see “Blanc de blancs” on a Champagne label, you're almost certainly drinking 100 per cent chardonnay.

• Chardonnay is said to be “made in the winery,” as it gets most of its hallmark tasting notes of butter from winemaking methods.

• Even though Chablis and cool-climate areas tend to show wines with bright acidity, the natural acidity in the grape is actually moderately low.

• Wente in California is famous for cloning chardonnay from Burgundy in 1912. That clone, called the Wente clone, is the source material for nearly 80 per cent of American chardonnay plantings today.


Chardonnay Conversations

We connected by Zoom with a few of our wine lovers this week to expand the conversation around this most expressive grape: Debra Taylor, Cecile Levee, Shannon McClure and Christopher Reckord.

Debra Taylor introduced the Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay 2018, California. The nose revealed ripe apple, melon, citrus and tropical fruit aromas enriched by creamy malolactic tones, spicy French oak nuances and enticing baked bread scents.

Chardonnay Experience

Debra Taylor: My first introduction was Australian chardonnay, which was more fruit-forward with a bit of oak. Then, as my wine journey progressed, I experienced the style out of France which had a lot more crispness and refreshing qualities, even more so than the new world expressions, hence I tend to lean towards old world selections. Right now, I am loving Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay. Even though new world, the wine is very approachable, not too heavy and refreshing. Today, I am drinking wines that I enjoy and not just for the sake of having a glass.


From Cecile Levee came Charles Smith Eve Chardonnay 2018, Washington State-ready. The Charles Smith Eve Chardonnay reflects the true character of Chardonnay. Dry, creamy and smooth, with a multitude of flavours and aromas. Asian pears, honey crisp apple, and lemon curd with minerality that take this heavenly wine to the next level.

Chardonnay Experience

Cecile Levee: My absolute favourite varietal is chardonnay, especially oaked chardonnay. I was introduced to the grape variety while working in the restaurant business in New York. I love all expressions whether new world or old, as the difference lies in the terroir and winemaker. The old world chardonnays will reveal minerality and crispness. The new world will be more fruit-forward, expressing more tropical-style fruits. Nonetheless, I am all-in when it comes to chardonnay!


Shannon McClure spoke passionately about William Fevre Chablis 2018, Chablis, France. The Chablis delivered a nose of citrus fruits, flowers, green apple and flinty flavours of wet stone in the mid-palate with a beautifully clean finish. Fresh and supple, it is marked by mineral notes, typical of the appellation. A perfect accompaniment for shellfish menus, grilled fish, oysters, and sushi, but would also work well with many roast chicken recipes seasoned with fresh herbs such as thyme or tarragon.

Chardonnay Experience

Shannon McClure: Chardonnay for me is a gateway grape varietal. It is the first grape that you are introduced to. Interesting thing about this grape variety is the different ways of producing the wine; for example, oaked or unoaked, steel vats or concrete vats. Dependent on style of production, a different expression can be found in the glass. Personally, I have never been a huge fan of chardonnay due to the heaviness and buttery notes associated with the grape; however, my choice will always be Chablis due to its light, crisp, and refreshing characteristics. I had a beautiful experience while in South Africa. I tasted an unoaked chardonnay which blew my mind. The diversity of the South African terroir was simply amazing.


Christopher Reckord was enthralled with the Bouchard Pouilly Fuissé 2018, Maconnais, Burgundy, France. This Pouilly Fuissé is of a pale straw colour; light nutty, citrus, flinty/mineral, green apple, delicate floral nose with yeasty notes; dry, medium-bodied, with fresh fruit, vanilla and melon flavours with a long, crisp finish.

Chardonnay Experience

Christopher Reckord: Throughout the years, I have learnt that there are so many styles of chardonnay. Through travel, exposure, and education, I find that there is still so much to know about this grape varietal. Even what you thought you knew, once you visit the varied wine regions, for example Chablis or Pouilly Fuissé, you realise that there are subregions/cultures that provide very interesting expressions, as the wines are reflective of the winemaker's style. Interestingly, I conducted a wine-tasting session in Washington, DC and while explaining the concept of old world versus new world chardonnays, there was a moment of serendipity. Through this tasting, persons immediately identified the difference: the old world wines had more minerality and crispness, while the new world fruitier notes. I have found the best way to be able to understand these differences in chardonnay is through tastings and so I encourage persons to taste as many wines as they can.

The conversation could not be complete without Champagne, as the chardonnay varietal is one of three grapes used in its creation. I selected GH Mumm Grand Cordon. Although the Grand Cordon is driven by the Pinot Noir Grape, the Grand Cordon is made up of wines from a selection of 300 pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier base wines, sourced from over 100 different crus, and 20 months' ageing in the maison's cellars. Exuberant bubbles, Mumm Grand Cordon has a brilliant and golden colour. Lush aromas of ripe peach, apricot and pineapple cascade from the glass, chased by hints of vanilla and caramel, yeast, dried fruit and honey. One sip and Mumm Grand Cordon unleashes intense, complex flavours of fresh fruit and caramel that morph into a long, lingering finish. What can I say? I love Champagne!


Readers' Grapevine Club: If you are new to wines and want to join us on our wine discovery, then this is for you. On the third Thursday of each month, I will highlight your feedback on our grape variety/vine of the month. The Grapevine of the Month is pinot noir. Share with me your feedback on what you thought about the wine and your overall wine experience.


Readers' Feedback:

Extraordinary wonder and joy are interwoven through ordinary life; seek for them relentlessly. Please share with me your wines, spirits and cocktail experiences or comments on the above article at, or follow me on IG @debbiansm #barnoneja.


Debbian Spence-Minott

An Alumna of the US Sommelier Association

CEO of the Academy of Bartending, Spirits & Wines

President, Jamaica Union of Bartenders and Mixologists (JUBAM) Limited

Marketing Studies Lecturer – The University of Technology, Jamaica

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