Not long ago I did a tasting at 67 Pall Mall of Eleven 2013 Chardonnays from around the globe and the standard, as the blog suggests, was very high.

When the chance came round about 2 weeks later to do a Skype Chardonnay Master Class tasting with Stephane Vivier, winemaker, of Hyde de Villaine, I was very keen. Hyde de Villaine owes its name to the coming together of two great names in the wine world: Larry Hyde, celebrated Californian viticulturist and Aubert de Villaine, best known as co-gérant of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Aubert’s wife Pamela is Larry Hyde’s cousin. The estate as a whole, across it’s five wines, only makes 4000 cases.

This specific tasting covered the 2010-2013 vintages. The wines are made in a lovely blend of styles between the Californian and Burgundian. This is not to say they aim to make Burgundy in California but they interpret things that way. For those who fear big and oaky Chardonnay there is no need to worry – this only sees one year in barrel, of which only 20% is new (the rest is mix of 2nd, 3rd and 4th fill), before 3 months in stainless steel prior to bottling. The Chardonnay comes from 10 different parcels which are in turn from 5 distinct blocks. The vast majority was planted in 1979. The site is 35-40 miles from the bay and typically sees fog in the mornings. There is a small amount, only 5%, of a “second” Chardonnay released as “De La Guerra Chardonnay”. So, to the wines:

Hyde de Villaine Chardonnay 2010 – The second and third weeks in September saw quite a heat spike in what had already been a warm vintage. The wine exhibits an oily richness, some brioche, full, quite rounded and opulent, perfect now but no mad rush. 17+

Hyde de Villaine Chardonnay 2011 – No heat spike here, the latest picked of all the Chardonnays they have made, October the 4th. Cool, lovely minerality, citrus, some saline too, white fruits and a splendid long finish. 18

Hyde de Villaine Chardonnay 2012 – A really “easy” vintage, consistent conditions. This makes me think of a combination of 2010 and 2011. Floral but with more richness. 17.5+

Hyde de Villaine Chardonnay 2013 – The 2013 vintage is, climatically, the very best since 1974 with richness from a good amount of drought, just the right amount of stress you see, cool ripeness and great acidity. This has an easy citrus backbone, expressive yet streamlined at the same time. Difficult not to drink it now but will repay patience very well. Very impressive. 18-18.5(+)

On this last point Stephane remarked how the wines age superbly, clearly he is biased, but a recent tasting at the estate went back to the early 2000s and all the wines were in great shape.

The estate’s own website is a good one especially the interactive map.

I have always loved showing this Chardonnay and the same estate’s Merlot/Cab blend (“Belle Cousine”) blind and will continue to do so. Superb wines at prices that compete with anywhere else in the world.