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Happy Chardonnay Day. Today we celebrate one of the world’s most planted white grape varieties (210,000 hectares worldwide!), which was named after the village of Chardonnay in the Mâcon region of Burgundy. It also happens to grow particularly well right here in Ontario’s cool climate where it is one of the top produced VQA varietals with 12% of total production. Chardonnay is a grape that gets the spotlight at the upcoming International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration being held in Niagara July 20-23, 2023, which was originally started because a few Ontario winemakers felt Chardonnay deserved a renaissance, and to refute the ‘Anything But Chardonnay’ movement. Today many Ontario winemakers are making excellent Chardonnays, including those from Bachelder, Hidden Bench, Le Clos Jordanne, Leaning Post, On Seven, Pearl Morissette, Trail Estate, and Stratus, to name a few. And Rick VanSickle names a few more in 38 Ontario Chardonnays to pair with International Chardonnay Day.
Chablis is Chardonnay. In Why Chablis is the Purest Chardonnay, Roger Voss does a deep dive into Chablis (pronounced cha-BLEE), which is 100% Chardonnay. Chablis is located in the centre of Burgundy’s northernmost region, which has five main winegrowing areas. In the far north is Chablis, which is geographically separated from the rest of Burgundy, and also close to the Champagne region, known for its bubbly (obvs) which is often made from, you guessed it, Chardonnay. Like all the regions of Burgundy, Chablis has a legal hierarchy based on the quality of the land and soil, classified according to the Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) designation. There are many Chablis options available at local bottle shops including Vocoret En Boucheron, Domaine Bernard Defaix, and Guillaume Vrignaud, to name a few.
Beaujolais Blanc. In An Unexpected Way To Drink Chardonnay, Jill Barth writes about this white wine produced in Beaujolais, which is known mostly for its Gamay, a red grape varietal synonymous with the region. But Chardonnay accounts for about 3% of vineyards in Beaujolais, a small portion of the region’s production, but a delicious and fresh portion at that.
Aromatic, with notes of citrus and green apple, along with a chalky mineral complexity, this is a wine to refresh. Depending on the vintage, Beaujolais Blanc may exhibit more ripe fruit notes, but still tends to be restrained and balanced. And though the region’s reputation is built on red wine from Gamay, the production of white wine in this region has a history that reaches back just as long.
Aurélien Fiardet from Terroirs Originels, a collective of independent vintners located in the Beaujolais and Maconnais vineyards, says that “it’s worth grabbing a bottle when you find them” of the small production and hard to find Beaujolais Blanc. I recently had a delicious Beaujolais Blanc from Chateau Cambon, which was started as a collaboration by natural wine pioneer Marcel Lapierre, Jean-Claude Chanudet, and Joseph Chamonard, at Toronto’s Chantecler (imported in Ontario by Le Caviste Wine Agency). But the first Beaujolais Blanc I ever had was last summer at Hearts in Kimberly, Ontario when I had the Ce Blanc from Jean-Claude Lapalu (imported by Context Wines), a delicious Chardonnay made by one of the most respected growers in Beaujolais. Other Bojo Blancs to watch out for include Jules Desjourneys (imported by Burgundy Direct) and Domaine des Terres Dorées (imported by The Living Vine).