It is hard to argue that the chardonnay grape did not originate in Burgundy. There has been a village of the same name in the north of the Maconnais since Roman times. But whether it did or not, one thing is certain. Burgundy is its natural home.
The grape itself is fairly neutral, not very aromatic. But at the same time it is naturally full-bodied, leaving lots of space to be filled by flavors that come from other sources. And in Burgundy that means ‘terroir’.
Chardonnay, like pinot noir, prefers cool climates and likes to come to maturity slowly. But unlike pinot noir, it can also thrive on less than ideal conditions. It is an easy grape to grow and simple to vinify. And left to its own devices, can produce enormous crops. These characteristics account for the many styles and varying quality of chardonnay found around the world.
We are, in fact, living through a backlash against chardonnay. Too many flabby hot-climate wines. Too much tropical fruit. Too much oak. It’s enough to give chardonnay a bad name. Even in Burgundy, where the grape performs at its peak, there are those who let their yields run wild, producing dull and dilute wine.
But at its best, chardonnay is the ultimate expression of terroir. From the sweet river rock and dusty dryness of a great Chablis, to the white floral bouquets from around the Corton mountain, to the density and finesse of whites from the golden triangle of Meursault, Puligny and Chassagne-Montrachet , and then on south to the smoky, flinty, honeyed ripeness of Pouilly-Fuisse, chardonnay in Burgundy produces some of the best white wines in the world.
Domaine Germain Pere et Fils Saint Romain Blanc 2017
Here is a very classy Chardonnay with unique and superbly subtle Saint Romain minerality, full, rich and dense, with elegant floral notes, good acidity in its youthful charm. We found this wine on a restaurant list in Santenay and were so impressed we went the next day to meet the producers. An excellent bottle.