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February’s 29 days of Chardonnay

a collaborative project


Definitely not a Loser, an interlude

Authored by Filip Verheyden

The current issue of TONG is on Chardonnay.

Filip, the editor and publisher, was kind enough to allow excerpts to be included with this project.

About TONG

“TONG is the label for high-quality information and no-nonsense communication about wine with NO advertising. Everything from grape varieties to wine growing regions, terroir to the latest vinification techniques, themed issues of 48 to 56 pages are written quarterly by a selection of international specialists….”

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 Definitely not a Loser

[an interlude]

Chardonnay has always been under attack, especially in Europe, for reasons familiar to many wine lovers. Some call it “winemaking’s whore” and its many styles and the grape variety’s exceptional adaptability to different – and sometimes even opposite –climatic conditions have led to a fuzzy, ill-defined image.

Upscale consumers in particular have little time for Chardonnay. They see Burgundy as  the epitome of high-quality Chardonnay, while “cheaper” overtly oaked styles with tropical fruit character – mostly from the New World – are the preferred tipple of so-called “entry-level” wine drinkers. But the traditional image no longer holds true, as you will read in this issue.

Australian Chardonnay is finding its way back on stage with lean, mineral Chablis-like wines from lesser-known cool climates like Orange and Tumbarumba. These wines are slowly earning a reputation in Europe, mainly due to the new worldwide preference for more refined and clear wine styles.Sauvignon Blanc and to a lesser extent Riesling have clearly paved the path for modern Chardonnay. Big New World producers like Yellow Tail have changed their packaging from white bottles and luscious golden labels to green bottles and plainer labels in which green predominates.

This issue is short of one article – the role played by Chardonnay in Champagne. We looked for in-depth information on the subject, and were disappointed by the lack of knowledge among winegrowers and winemakers, especially the big producers. Maybe they want to keep it secret. In Champagne’s vineyards Chardonnay tends to be easier to grow than Pinot Noir. It is less susceptible to Botrytis, ripens more easily and has a higher yield. Chardonnay contains more alcohol than Pinot Noir and is less susceptible to oxidation, but the grape variety tends to be treated like Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

The reason the Côte des Blancs is known to produce more mineralic and refined Chardonnay than elsewhere in Champagne is due to more south-facing slopes and the soil’s higher lime content that buffers the acidity in the wines. We would love to see some scientific research in this area. To conclude, we wanted to make this issue on Chardonnay because we firmly believe the grape variety is making a rapid comeback.

But it is no longer in Burgundy that the most interesting Chardonnays are produced these days. Australia rules, and we have tasted some very good trials in Chile too.

Filip Verheyden
Editor & publisher

TONG is based in Belgium and recently won


from the


Over the next few days, you’ll see [not so brief] excerpts from the current issue, written by the likes of Clive Coats MW, Arne Ronold MW, Luisa Rose and Michelle Cherutti-Kowal. They will touch on topics such as the identity crisis of White Burgundy, the problem of premox, snapshots of regional profiles and a examination of Chardonnay clones.

TONG is a wonderful publication, I encourage anyone serious about wine to look into subscribing. It is more than worth the investment.