When it comes to Chardonnay from France, Burgundy is synonymous with the grape. It sets a benchmark with which Chardonnays throughout the world are compared. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find excellent Chardonnays from elsewhere in France — maybe not as famous, but still enjoyable for a fraction of the price of good Burgundy. One of those wines is the 2018 Chardonnay from Domaine d’Aussières in the Languedoc region in the south of France.
Aussières is a sprawling vineyard near the coastal Mediterranean city of Narbonne. But because Chardonnay falls outside the region’s appellation-permitted varieties, it takes the more general Pays d’Oc designation, which translates to “country” wine of Oc, or Occitanie, an ancient area that included much of southern France. (“Languedoc” means “language of Oc.”)
Whatever it’s called, Domaine d’Aussières’ Chardonnay is a wonderful wine at a remarkable average price of $13. It’s made without oak, and as far as un-oaked Chardonnays go, it’s an excellent alternative to the much more expensive Chablis of Burgundy. Relatively light and refreshing, with alcohol listed at 13 percent, the label aptly describes a “perfect balance between smoothness and acidity.” The tastes include green apple, pear, and citrus, with a good deal of spice. I often find un-oaked Chardonnays to be unwieldy and one-sided, with lots of fruit and not much more, but there’s lean elegance and good complexity here.
Domaine d’Aussières is part of the large wine portfolio of Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), which has impressed me with the quality and value of its wines. Think of this one as a go-to white wine for all kinds of lighter foods; a wine that will surprise your guests when they ask you where it’s from and what it costs.