Chardonnay: Wine’s Come-Back Queen

It may have been ousted in the 90s in favour of newer, trendier varieties, however, Chardonnay has experienced an extraordinary comeback in recent years.

With a balance of minerality and fruit, Chardonnay is one of the most popular wines globally and the third most planted grape variety in New Zealand – after Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, and now accounts for 6% of New Zealand’s wine production. In 2020, New Zealand produced 27,7568 tonnes of Chardonnay, exporting over 4.6million litres.

3,222 hectares of Chardonnay grapes are planted around New Zealand; Marlborough has the highest percentage of Chardonnay, followed by Hawke’s Bay, and Auckland, each with distinctive tasting notes symbolic of each region.

Somewhat of a blank canvas, Chardonnay allows winemakers to display their creativity and technique. Many international wine writers say Chardonnay is the category to watch and Villa Maria is producing standout examples.

Highlighting its Single Vineyard and Reserve ranges, Villa Maria, New Zealand’s most awarded wine brand, is showcasing exquisite Chardonnays that highlight the best of each growing region.

Villa Maria’s Single Vineyard wines reflect their finest sites, Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough, and Auckland and embody the distinctive qualities and characteristics unique to each terroir: the climate, soils, and terrain.

The Chardonnay grape truly thrives in the Marlborough region because of its dry climate influenced by cool easterly coastal breezes or cold southerly winds travelling down the valley from Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku. Marlborough Chardonnay is zesty with good acidity and strong nectarine, grapefruit, and other citrus fruit flavours, which work well with or without oak. Villa Maria’s 2019 Taylors Pass Chardonnay is a mineral-driven wine, showcasing aromas of lemon rind, gun smoke, and broches that are distinctive characteristics from the Taylors Pass vineyard.

The Ihumatao Vineyard is located within a wind-protected volcanic basin on the edge of the Manukau Harbour in South Auckland. Free draining soils and a unique soil profile lead to the production of a very distinctive Chardonnay. The generally warmer, more even climate gives bold, ripely fruited wines with good weight and balance. Ihumatao Chardonnay offers a complex array of aromas including white peach, fresh grapefruit zest, and roasted cashews.

Villa Maria’s 2019 Reserve Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay is a sensational culmination of its finest Chardonnay sites in the region. An exciting blend, this Chardonnay features fruit from the easterly plateau of Maraekakaho where the prestigious Keltern site grows mature vines in sandy loam over red stained metals, combined with the low yielding plants in alluvial silt loams from the Lyons vineyard, which adds a beautiful depth of flavour. Today, the 2019 Chardonnay will be pale in the glass with aromas of white-fleshed stone fruit, flowers, biscuit, and hazelnut, but it can be cellared with confidence for up to eight years from vintage.

With varying styles, Chardonnay is truly the gem of New Zealand wine, so what better way to celebrate International Chardonnay Day than with a glass of one of Villa Maria’s finest Chardonnays that boast unique expressions from some of the highest performing vineyards New Zealand has to offer.