The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Showcasing the charm of Chardonnay

Cameron Douglas MS shares how to highlight Chardonnay choices in the on- and off-premise.

As a wine taster and reviewer of all-things beverage, one of the most interesting and complex varieties that I get excited about is Chardonnay.

Recently – and for the third consecutive year – I tasted and selected 12 of the best Chardonnays that represent the Hawke’s Bay region.

Each year they are selected from one vintage, this year was 2022 (last year 2021 and next year will be the 2023 releases).

From more than 50 wines tasted and assessed, just 12 were selected – a very challenging task due to the diversity, interpretation of vintage and the delivery of a complete wine from each producer.

This diversity is also driven explicitly by site, condition of fruit at harvest time and winemaking choices.

One or more, or all-of these factors in combination can deliver outstanding examples and sometimes, some mediocre wines are in the mix.

What this experience shows is that Chardonnay has 1000 different faces and which one or few suit our customer base is a complex question.

Layer in the Chardonnays produced throughout Aotearoa New Zealand, and the plethora of styles and interpretations expand almost exponentially.

When it comes to showcasing Chardonnay in the on- and off-premise, it often comes down to two major questions: What customers are prepared to pay and what wines on offer meet their personal style needs.

In my experience working-the-floor, it is a challenge to steer customers into an expression of Chardonnay they are not familiar with as this often means a different producer as well.

For example, a guest who likes the sweetness and full-bodied richness that oak can give to Chardonnay may not readily like one that is leaner with more inherent mineral qualities.

I have largely been successful with offering sample tastes, just 30ml, from two or three different expressions served by the glass (or not). This, at the very least, opens the conversation up to the possibility of a different wine selection.

This approach is a small cost for the business and creates a memorable experience for the customer.

Wine stores can do this too, though only once a week or month.

Wine retailers also have the advantage of window and email campaigns that bars can’t often engage in.

Chardonnay is not a one trick pony wine, so an opportunity to taste and discuss to then reveal the various expressions and stories of wine need to be available often.

To read Cameron’s Chardonnay reviews and tasting notes, click here.

Cameron Douglas is New Zealand’s first and only Master Sommelier. An experienced wine commentator, judge, reviewer, presenter and consultant, he is the Beverage Director & Group Sommelier for Rodd & Gunn and is the Patron of the New Zealand Sommeliers and Wine Professionals Association. Formerly academically in charge of the Wine & Beverage Programme at AUT in Auckland, Douglas has also consulted to a variety of establishments, taking care of their wine lists, wine and food pairings, and staff training matters, and he currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas.

How to catch up with The Shout NZ

Online, updated daily with its own unique content and breaking news.
Our weekly newsletter – free to your inbox! Subscribe here.
We are also on Facebook and Instagram!