For most people, the Chardonnay grape varietal is one of the quintessential white wine grapes. It isn't difficult to understand why; Chardonnay may well have started off in regions of France (where it is still used widely today in both single variety white wines as well as sparkling Champagne wines) but it is now grown in every wine producing country in the world. Indeed, it was the New World that took Chardonnay to some exciting new extremes â€“ this relatively neutral grape has the fantastic ability to carry much of its terroir in the bottle, resulting in a fascinating range of flavors and styles. Furthermore, Chardonnay is one of the few white wine grapes which is well suited to aging, as can be seen in some of the excellent produce consistently coming out of Burgundy, and elsewhere in the world. With everything from buttery, creamy characteristics to vibrant tropical fruit notes, Chardonnay will never cease to surprise and impress.
Region: Hawkes Bay
In northern New Zealand, Hawkes Bay has long since been considered something of the birthplace and spiritual home of the country's now enormous and highly successful wine industry. For such a young country, the Hawkes Bay wine industry is relatively ancient, dating back to the mid 19th century, when settlers were first arriving to establish permanent dwellings on the island. Today, the region is regarded as something of an ideal setting for fine, New World style viticulture. The hot climate, low rainfall and moderate humidity help the vintners coax their grapes to full ripeness, and a wide range of grape varietals now flourish in the region's vineyards. However, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling grapes have all produced the most successful wines of recent years, alongside a healthy and growing dessert wine industry which is based there.
Country: New Zealand
New Zealand is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful and ecologically diverse countries in the world, and the wines which are produced there are a fine representation of this diversity and overall quality. With beautifully long and warm summers, a brisk oceanic climate and mile upon mile of gently sloping mountainsides, the vineyards which have sprung up there over the past century have brought about truly fantastic results, with wine now contributing a considerable amount to the economy of the country. In recent years, New Zealand wines have won some of the most prestigious awards available in the wine world, with most of the lauded wineries coming from the Auckland region, where there has been considerable effort to replicate the finest wines of the Bordeaux region of France. The Bordeaux grape varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec) all flourish in the mineral rich soil of the region, and the results have been outstanding, marking New Zealand a strong contender for finest New World wine country.