A couple of weeks ago I returned to an old favourite, an unoaked chardonnay from the Mâconnais region in Burgundy: Saint-Véran en Crêches, Domaine Nathalie et Jacques Saumaize. I’ve been buying this Saint-Véran for years, and it never fails to deliver vintage in, vintage out. I’m not a big lover of oak as far as chardonnay is concerned, and I suspect this is one of the reasons why I love this wine. There’s plenty of refreshing lemony acidity here, and a lovely creamy note on the finish – it’s so well balanced and elegant. Everything I want from a chardonnay at this level. In fact, it leaves me wondering why I ever bother buying other examples. But then again, that’s part of the fun of wine, isn’t it, to try different things? How else to discover a new gem?
Speaking of which, here’s a new wine from one of my favourite producers, GD Vajra: Dragon Langhe Bianco, Luigi Baudana (2012 vintage). Listed by The Wine Society as a chardonnay, the Dragon is a mercurial creature indeed – I’ve been reading Angela Crater’s Nights at the Circus, and this wine would be a fitting match. The Dragon hails from Serralunga d’Alba in the Piedmont region in North-West Italy, and it certainly feels quite European. On the nose, it’s quite floral with some stone-fruit notes, too, but if served blind, I doubt I’d mark this wine as chardonnay – it’s more complex and characterful than that. My initial thought was ‘assyrtiko’ from Greece, but the more I sampled this wine, the more it cried ‘Alsace’, especially as it warmed up. This wine is a beguiling mix of citrus (lemon oil), savoury and minerally flavours with a long, mouth-watering finish. Crying out for food, this wine would be lovely with salmon or a robust seafood dish – it’s got enough body and a slight oiliness to cope with something substantial.
In fact, the Dragon isn’t just a ‘straight’ chardonnay. It’s a blend: 80% chardonnay, 20% sauvignon blanc, riesling and local grape, nascetta. Whatever it is, the Dragon is a winner, one that punches well above its price point of £9.95. More, please!
Wine stockist: I bought both wines from The Wine Society. I tasted the 2011 vintage of the Saint-Véran en Crêches, Domaine Nathalie et Jacques Saumaize – The Society has moved on to the 2012 vintage now, priced at £12.50 per bottle. The Dragon Langhe Bianco, Luigi Baudana, 2012 is £9.95 per bottle.