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February’s 29 days of Chardonnay

a collaborative project


The Bastard Daughter: A short family history of Chardonnay

Authored by Nigel Greening

“It might be considered a sin to write something about Chardonnay that isn’t about pure 100% Chardonnay, tough luck. Call me a sinner. Chardonnay is a cross breed: a mongrel: Pinot Noir was the father, having a quick fling with a strumpet called Gouais Blanc. Or, at least, that’s how the story goes.”

“Imagine some dark alley in Nuits St Georges… saturday night… a quick rash impulse and a lifetime of denial; banished from the hallowed ground of the Côte de Nuits, forever to live on the wrong side of the tracks somewhere south of Beaune. Actually, not forever. As a special favour, Chardonnay can creep up to Corton and peep round the hill at Daddy in his glory.”

“But this brings a problem. Life is a bit lonely having nothing white to share the long hours. And so, Pinot, having pangs of guilt and indecision tries to create a pure Chardonnay, a perfect white grape that is 100% Pinot with no hint of that dreadful Gouais woman. And so, one night, in the Clos de Perrières, one of the vines of Henri Gouges cracked under the strain and went white.”

“Today, throughout the Côte de Nuits, there are tiny plots of this transvestite pinot: in the Perrières, in the Porrets, in Clos L’Arlot, Clos de Vougeot, Musigny even. But… the pure white daughter of Pinot couldn’t do it alone; just didn’t have that sassy attitude. So, quietly, Chardonnay came in to stay for the weekend, then forgot to leave at all.”

“Finding white wines from the Côte de Nuits is a great exercise in detective work. There are quite a few: Henri Gouges, of course, Dujac, Vougeraie, L’Arlot, Patrice Rion, Comte de Vogué could form a starter list, there are quite a few more. They are nearly always great, and nearly always a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc.”

“So, it’s where the bastard daughter and the pure one hang out together. They make a neat twosome.”

Nigel Greening is the proprietor and sometime head chef Panini Noir at


Felton Road, in Bannockburn, Central Otago, New Zealand.

Nigel now lives in Wanaka full time, so can be found more frequently harassing the local trout and rabbits. While he hasn’t completely handed in his frequent flier cards, there is definitely a trend to a more rustic lifestyle. The chef thing seems to have been acquiring a new lease of life recently, with a number of TV appearances but be warned: the dishes might look plausible, but try to eat them at your peril.

With Hamish, his 12 year old son, now way ahead of him on both skis and at the chessboard, he retreats to the comfort that he can still cut it on the guitar, though new albums have been noticeably absent of late. Perhaps next year?


To learn more about Felton Road, please visit their website and better yet, demand their wines at your neighborhood bottle shop! I also urge you to take a quick look at my notes from a 14 Vintage Vertical tasting at Felton Road from April, 2011.