Q&A with Marcelo Papa

Ahead of the drinks business Global Chardonnay Masters 2013 competition, Marcelo Papa, chief winemaker of Concha y Toro, talks to db about his love of the grape.

What factors make a Chardonnay great?

The two Chardonnays I make for Concha y Toro,  Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay and Maycas del Limarí Quebrada Seca Chardonnay both come from Limarí, one of the best places in Chile for Chardonnay production.

For me, in order to make a good Chardonnay, terroir is cruicial and Limari provides ideal temperatures for growing the grape, with the cooler nighttime temperatures allowing for slow ripening, the perfect amount of light, with cloudy mornings providing a respite so the sunshine isn’t too intense, a good percentage of clay in the soil, which gives structure to the wines, and finally a calcareos subsoil that provides minerality and freshness.

Which regions are emerging as an exciting source of Chardonnay?

Other than Chile of course, I think outstanding Chardonnays are being made along the south coast of California in places like Santa Maria and Santa Barbara.

What is it about Chardonnay that gives it global appeal?

Chardonnay is a great grape variety. Unfortunately for many years, winemakers and journalists were looking for richness via oak, sweetness and higher alcohol levels, but now I think we’ve come full circle and palates are changing to favour Chardonnays with less oak, better freshness and great ageing potential.

Is there a winemaker whose expression of Chardonnay inspires you?

Jean Michel Chartron makes amazing Chardonnay in Puligny Montrachet at Domaine Jean Chartron – his Clos des Chevaliers Chevalier-Montrachet is one of the best I’ve ever tasted – extremely fresh, long, and incredibly fine.

Do you believe Chardonnay has ageing potential?

Yes but not always, only if the grape growing region is cool and not too sunny, and the calcareous and clay soil imparts minerality and freshness into the wines.

The drinks business Global Chardonnay Masters 2013 competition takes place in September. Presided over by a panel of Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers, rather than being judged by country, each Chardonnay is assessed by style and price.

Those interested in entering the competition can do so here. The deadline for entries is 13 September.

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