When it comes to comparing European or distinctly old-world wines with our own, it is chardonnay that often displays the greatest variation.
European chardonnays, especially those from Burgundy (also the home of benchmark pinot noir), are quite different to the New Zealand chardonnay.
Over recent years our style has become less buttery and oaky and instead is leaner, with a more mineral and biscuity complexity.
In some ways they are now closer to the French chardonnays, which tend to be less fruity and aromatic and more nutty, with toasty almond earthy undertones.
Check them out by comparing the following and spot the difference.
Marlborough is not all about sauvignon blanc, as demonstrated by this well-priced entry-level chardonnay. The grapes come from the Wairau Valley region and it is an interesting blend of 70 per cent fermented in French barriques, 30 per cent in stainless steel. This produces a chardonnay with bright, upfront yellow fruit and citrus flavours with a swish of spice, toast, oatmeal and nuts. Although ready to drink now, it is good for another four or five years. Try with white meats or creamy seafood dishes.
2011 Caves De Lugny Macon Villages - $22
Imported by specialist French wine merchants Maison Vauron, this is an entry-level French chardonnay of incredible value - a fine example of the French style at an affordable price. It is from the Maconnais region and the 5500ha of vines are scattered over a 50km area starting south of Tournus in a village called Chardonnay and continuing south past the city of Macon to the border of Beaujolais. With flavours of lemon and apricot and a creamy texture, this wine is fresh, dry, crisp and clean.
2011 Craggy Range Les Beaux Cailloux - $63
Despite the translation of its name (the beautiful pebbles), this is a serious chardonnay from Craggy Range. From Hawkes Bay's Gimblett Gravels, it's a wine of astonishing interest and power. It's made from a single chardonnay block planted with a variety of clones and will benefit from cellaring for up to six to eight years. With flavours of ripe peach, honey and lemon blossom, it is complex with layered flavours and lovely texture.