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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
As with nearby Australia, New Zealand has over the past century proven itself to be a superb location for producing high quality wines in vast amounts, with much of the cooler regions of both islands being used primarily for vine cultivation. New Zealand wineries are notable for their enthusiasm in regards to experimentation, and for utilizing modern technologies and methods to make the most of the imported grape varietals which flourish in the rich, fertile soils and oceanic climate. In recent years, it has been the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wines which have gained the most attention, as a result of their smoky character and ability to carry the mineral rich nature of the terroir they grow in. Changing consumer interests have brought about a considerable rise in the production of organic and sustainable wines in New Zealand, of which again, the Sauvignon Blanc varietals are leading the way in regards to excellence, flavor and overall character.