IN "VINES, GRAPESand Wines" (Alfred A. Knopf, 1986), British master of wine Jancis Robinson opens her chapter on Chardonnay by writing: "In Chardonnay is one of the happiest of all combinations: the grower loves to grow it; the wine maker loves to fashion it, and we all love to drink it. The result of this felicitous cuvee is that Chardonnay is, without question, the single most sought after varietal in the world today."
Chardonnay is the classic varietal base in three of France's premier wines: Champagne, Chablis and white Burgundy. The mere mention, among connoisseurs, of the celebrated white Burgundy, Le Montrachet, evokes rapturous recollection--tinged with painful contemplation of current price levels.
The June, 1988, issue of Decanter magazine, published in London, announced the results of its own recent tasting, "The Great Chardonnay Challenge." The panel evaluated 85 wines from Burgundy, the Loire, Chablis, Italy, Bulgaria, Spain, Portugal, California, Oregon, Idaho, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The tasters were told to analyze each wine for balance, eschewing those of overpowering oak.
Only 4 of the 10 wines from France made it to the finals, as did 12 of 17 from Australia, 8 of 9 from New Zealand and 9 of 20 from the United States.