Italian Chardonnay may not be as famous as its French or Californian counterparts but, for my money, is improving year after year and the unique Italian soil is adding something a bit different to this most famous white wine. I’m no fan of white wine, but Italian Chardonnay, especially at the top end (Gaja, Planeta and Antoniri all do fantastic Chardonnays), has become my most favourite white wine of all.
The excellence is not simply coming from the Tre Venezie either, the areas of Veneto, the Alto Adige and Fruili–Venezia Guilia but great Chardonnay is coming out of Sicily! Until I tasted Planeta’s 2006 Chardonnay I wouldn’t have believed a great Chardonnay could come from a climate like Sicily’s. Along with the traditional Chardonnay characteristics, yet without the oak monster, the heart of Sicily is coming through in the glass, the wine has a warm, orange and honey like take; it’s truly a nectar from the gods.
In fact, the Gaja Chardonnay and Antinori Chardonnay are also both excellent. What Italian Chardonnay manages to do is capture the fruity essence of Chardonnay without the excessive oak that come from from the French version. Italian Chardonnay is practically unknown outside of Italy and for this reason you can pick up excellent examples for a fraction of the price of a French of Californian name.
So impressed by the Planeta Chardonnay I will enter a separate blog entry later today, however, probably the best Chardonnay in Italy is produced by Gaja.
This Chardonnay comes from two four acre vineyards planted in 1984: Bass (as it is slightly lower lying) and Rossj, named after Angelo’s younger daughter, Rossana. After the 1991 vintage, grapes from a twelve acre vineyard in Serralunga have also been added to the blend. The alcoholic fermentation takes place in stainless steel, and the wine is then transferred to barriques for the malolactic fermentation and ageing. The wine is wonderfully rich and honeyed, with fine mineral complexity and terrific length. Most Chardonnays on the market are meant to be drunk young, this is one of the few that benefits from cellaring.
Gaja Chardonnay Rossj-Bass 2006 – €30 – BUY
This is a crisp fresh young wine that once poured goes through many stages in the glass. The wine starts with floral notes, then the oak begins to emerge with the fruit and the finish is actually creamy. This is a fine elegant wine, perfect acidity, a little spicy, great for drinking today but can be cellared too. – 91 Points
Where can I buy this wine?
Europeans – Pedrelli – €30
Americans –Wine Library – $48
Brits – The Cellar Door – £24
Question of the Day?
What is your essential guide to wine? Where do you go to get help on which wines to buy?