Love Chardonnay? Five Other Styles to Discover

Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted white grape varieties. 

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Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted white grape varieties

Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted white grape varieties. 

© Shutterstock

1. White Rhône

So often overlooked in favour of its more prolific red counterpart, white Rhône offers wine lovers a hedonistic treat. Rich, tropical and honeyed with a creamy mouthfeel, there’s a decadence here that will be familiar to fans of fuller styled Chardonnay. As with fine white Burgundy, the top examples balance this lushness with a structure and energy that makes them both gastronomic and long-lived.

In the Northern Rhône look for the Marsanne and Roussanne-based whites of St Joseph and Hermitage in particular. Michel Chapoutier is a major, accomplished name here, as is JL Chave if you’re after a real money-no-object treat. In the Southern Rhône, complex white blends tend to major on Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Clairette. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a particular white specialist: at the top end try Château de Beaucastel, whose owner the Perrin family is a name to trust for cheaper options too.

Vineyards in Vaucluse

Vaucluse is home of some of the finest wines in the Southern Rhône. 

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2. Furmint

So often associated with the great sweet wines of Tokaj, today Furmint is increasingly showing its flare in dry styles too. A voluptuous cocktail that could include anything from baked apple to honey, hazelnuts, lime, blossom and smoky minerality, or all of these together, is given shape and drive by this variety’s characteristically piercing acidity. If you like Chardonnay with weight, mouthfeel and ageing potential then don’t overlook Furmint.

The grape’s strong Tokaj heritage makes this Hungarian region a great hunting ground. Disznókő is a useful name to look out for. But the Stajerska region of north-eastern Slovenia, is another excellent, often overlooked source of excellent Furmint – or Sipon as it’s often called here. Blanc de blancs Champagne lovers should seek out the traditional method, Furmint-based “DP Brut” fizz from Dveri-Pax.

Grand Tokaj - Hungarian winery

Grand Tokaj is the leading Hungarian winery in the Tokaj wine region. 

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3. Weissburgunder

As Pinot Blanc in Alsace, this variety is so often used to deliver low-key refreshment rather than anything too starry. But look to Germany or Austria where, under the synonym Weissburgunder, it is likely to be given more serious treatment, with ripe fruit often complemented by oak maturation and a cool, saline minerality.

Burgenland is a particular hub for ambitious Weissburgunder, especially the Leithaberg’s limestone-rich slopes, where producers such as Prieler and Tinhof set the quality benchmark. The variety is believed to have been brought here in the 11th century by Cistercian monks from Burgundy, an origin referenced in its name. For German examples, look to warmer regions such as Baden and Pfalz, where Weissburgunder receives grand cru treatment from the likes of Salway and Knipser.

4. White Rioja

Red Rioja is such a household name that it’s all too easy to overlook this region’s white wines. Don’t. As with the region’s reds, styles here can vary considerably, but the finest, most traditional examples tend to share that same tendency for extended oak maturation. Viura is the star variety here, proving itself every bit as capable of stylish, long aging as serious white Burgundy.

There’s no finer place to start your Rioja journey, whether red or white, than the hyper-traditional producer López de Heredia. Their white Viña Gravonia spends four years in oak barrel, emerging with a glorious golden hue and rich, honeyed citrus and cedar flavours that retain real vibrancy. Less extreme in terms of vinification but still deploying oak to very stylish, age-worthy effect is Marqués de Murrieta's Capellanía.


5. Grüner Veltliner

Just like Chardonnay, Grüner Veltliner can span the spectrum from light and racy right through to an altogether richer, more serious expression. An appealing spice typically gives Grüner an extra, mouth-watering dimension. The variety is gradually catching on in other corners of the world, but nowhere has more prolific plantings or consistently higher quality than Austria.

The shores of the Danube, taking in regions such as the Wachau, Kremstal and Kamptal, are particularly rewarding to explore. As with Burgundy, the top sites here are classified and display the vineyard’s name on the label. Many Wachau producers also use an additional ripeness classification, with “Smaragd” indicating the richest styles. Franz Hirtzberger is an acknowledged star here, while Schloss Gobelsburg's Lamm expression is a reliable highlight from Kamptal. Both prove that Grüner can match top Chardonnay for complexity, satisfaction and maturity, but still at a fraction of the price of serious white Burgundy. What are you waiting for?

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