Going with the grain: success of oaked Chardonnay in Pays d’Oc | THE BUYERS

Going with the grain: success of oaked Chardonnay in Pays d’Oc

When Pays d’Oc Chardonnay shot to prominence in the 1990s, it owed much of its recognition to the New World producers, particularly in California, who had spearheaded the concept of varietal wines, taking the native French grape and infusing it with a new level of extroversion. Key to this was the role played by oak, which became closely associated with Chardonnay in the public imagination – and followed the grape back to Pays d’Oc as it rode the waves of international market trends.

mm By November 24, 2023

Dominic Rippon finds out how oaked Chardonnay has matured in France’s Pays d’Oc vineyard and selects his favourite IGP Pays d’Oc wooded Chardonnays from an impressive tasting of the 2022 vintage. 

As I wrote in my previous piece for The Buyer, Chardonnay still rules in France’s Pays d’Oc vineyard. Originally a Burgundian variety, it now produces over 600 000 hectolitres of IGP Pays d’Oc every year – making it by far the region’s most squeezed varietal white.

The Pays d’Oc vineyards cover the area of the Languedoc-Roussillon, stretching from the Spanish border all the way to the western fringes of Provence. The range of climatic influences, terroirs, and hence styles of Chardonnay are consequently vast, but oaked Chardonnay is such a distinctive product that it is almost a category in it own right, deserving a special focus.

Chardonnay’s unique affinity for oak has been well known for centuries and undoubtedly played a role in the variety’s ubiquitous adoption in its native Burgundy. But whereas the role of oak barrels in Burgundy has always been nuanced, allowing oxygenation, adding structure and contributing to wines’ ageing potential, the New World Chardonnays that spurred France’s Pays d’Oc renaissance put the emphasis squarely on flavour – bold, powerful flavours that came to play the leading role in many Chardonnays in Pays d’Oc and elsewhere.


“Grande Courtade” Chardonnay 2022, Famille Fabre, 13% – Organic

A bright golden Chardonnay from the Fabre family estate, in the heart of the Corbières area. 20% of the wine is aged on its lees in oak for 6 months. The nose is energetic and floral, with ripe lemons, pears and peaches – full of charm, it just wants you to take a sip! This theme continues on the palate, with generous flavours underpinned by a delicate buttery richness. An ideal partner for fish in a creamy citrus sauce.

RRP in UK £13.99. Available from: UK importer – Boutinot/Third Floor

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