You might remember the name Jouclary from several months back, when we explored wines from this little-known region between the Languedoc and Bordeaux by way of their house red. Now, though they are best known for their reds, they happen to make wonderful and refreshing whites from well-known varieties that are rarely seen in this part of France–Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Now, much ink has been spilled about Chardonnay and its peculiarities. There is perhaps no grape variety I know of that is more susceptible to soil and climatic particularities, making it one of the hardest wines to get right. Even in its ancestral homeland of Burgundy, if you have a hot and dry vintage, or a parcel planted in the wrong spot, the wine will just never be quite right. Sometimes that’s a Chardonnay with too much fat and too little acid, or the reverse. Sometimes, it’s just not flavorful or exciting.
All that is to say that Chardonnay is tough to get right. That is especially true when planting it outside of its comfort zone, in regions like Burgundy where it is relatively cold. Plant it in the South of France, and you are asking for trouble. Or, at least, that is what I thought until we tasted Château Jouclary’s Chardonnay. Great Chardonnay highlights two things: minerality and complexity. What makes Chardonnay so special is its ability to be serious yet refreshing, nuanced yet easygoing. Crafting a Chardonnay in the South of France with this much freshness, elegance, and minerality is no small feat. I’ve never tasted Chardonnay from south of the Mâcon like it. It’s a real treat, perfect for warm summer nights–paired with our recipe for Grilled Swordfish with Smoky Tomato-Anchovy Salsa (on reverse).