New York Chardonnay Showdown

That was the title given to this online tasting arranged by the generic body that supports and promotes the wines of New York State. Three Chardonnay wines from the state were pitched against three from recognised Chardonnay regions of the world.

OK, so just three representatives playing for each team is hardly enough to draw any firm conclusions, but this was still an interesting opportunity to taste NY Chardonnay, so seldom seen on UK shelves. The winemakers participated in order to introduce their wines and explain more about Chardonnay’s position and potential in New York State, where Riesling and Cabernet Franc are perhaps the best known varieties.

The examples chosen for this comparative exercise came from France, Chile and New Zealand. The three wines were good mid-priced representatives of world Chardonnay styles, and wines of good quality for their price-points, so the ‘competition’ was fair.

The American wines came from the two most significant wine regions of the state, Finger Lakes, and Long Island. The lakes and coastal waters around each region are key to moderating the climate in this cold, northerly part of the USA. All three were good wines, and stylistically quite different, from an unoaked example blended with a little of the aromatic Traminette, to one receiving the full, wild-yeast and barrel-fermented Burgundian treatment.

The Wines

(2022) 100% Chardonnay, Dijon clone #76 and Davis clone 3, planted between 1988 and 1994. Winemaker Roman Roth explained how this is a Spring frost-free region, yet is cooler in summer than Manhattan for example, which is why so many New Yorkers head to the Hamptons and other resort areas for summer. This wine is fermented and aged in French oak, around 19% new barrels. Mealy and creamy, a little nougat and peach. In the mouth the oak gives a little nuttiness and also some tannic firmness, the fruit like lemon and melon skins. It has quite a firm finish, again a note of salinity, a lovely wine if perhaps a little too strict in the finish. Roman suggests it will age well for a decade. Acidity: 6.0g/l, RS: 0.05g/l. Seeking UK distribution, this wine has an RRP of $32 US.
(2022) Like the Fox Run, this is unoaked and has around 12.5% alcohol. Greengage and lemon notes, not a lot of flint to the aromas of this Chablis, the palate similar to the Fox Run in a way, with that suggestion of orchard fruit sweetness swept up in a lemony, pithy and salty acid structure. There's perhaps a hint of more roundness here. pH: 3.3, Acidity: 7.4g/l, RS: less than 2g/l. Not in the UK at present, this has an RRP of 16€ in France.
(2022) Winemaker Peter Bell spoke about the difference between the continental climate here in the Finger Lakes, and the more Mediterranean climate of Long island, with a very late bud-break followed by rapid development where the vines 'catch up' with the rest of the state. It also has a little Traminette in the blend, an offspring of Gewurztraminer. Creamy apples and lemons on the nose, a little juicy Ogen melon character and just a hint of florals in this unoaked Chardonnay. Dry, lemony and pithy on the palate, there's ripe pear and apple fruit sweetness, but that pithiness and sharp hint of salinity tightens up the finish. pH: 3.28, Acidity: 6.9g/l, RS: 0.0gl. Seeking UK distribution, this wine has an RRP of $14 US.
(2022) From the coastal part of the Aconcagua Valley. Very cool on the nose, a touch of cool herbs and flint and crisp apple and citrus. The oak adds just a little almond touch. Zesty on the palate, lots of bursting lemon and orange, then the palate is quite lean. There's a pleasantly pithy dryness to this that's far removed from 'golden' buttery Chardonnay style. Long and lean, the fruit edged with sweet, Ogen melon ripeness and the oak adding just a touch of creaminess. With 50% of malolactic blocked, it retains bite and freshness. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.
(2022) Winemaker Nathan Kendall has returned home to establish his winery, citing the cooler climate as a main driving force on that decision. He suggests global warming has shifted the winter climate, with less consistent snowfall and more extreme weather events. His wine sees spontaneous fermentation in neutral oak, with around 11 months on the lees in barrel and partial malolactic. Lovely nose - it is Burgundian, both the gentle toast and butter of the nose, but also a touch of spice and creamy lemon fruitiness. The palate has plenty of sweetness, along with a touch of RS there is a sweet nectarine fruit juiciness. The acidity, again salts and zest, really pushes through. pH: 3.3, Acidity: 7.7g/l, RS: 4g/l.
(2022) From the cooler Awatere Valley, this is barrel fermented, around half the barrels wild fermented, and it spends 11 months in barrel on lees. Mint humbug notes, beauitfully ripe fruit, with juiciness and a peachy character, lots of zest too, a racing orange and grapefruit character. Sparky in the finish, a beautifully defined wine where the cooler Awatare conditions helps that fresh and saline finish. pH: 3.2, Acidity 6.7, RS: 0.5g/l.

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