At Saintsbury, the Chardonnay is fermented in French oak barrels and aged sur lie for about eight months. Thirty percent of these barrels are new; the balance has been used once and twice before. During the aging process, the barrels are stirred (batonnage) to increase yeast contact for added richness. The wine also completes malolactic fermentation in the barrel, which can add roundness to the mouthfeel and complexity to the aroma.
Saintsbury has asked the question "to filter or not to filter” Chardonnay since the 1992 vintage. Following the success of a small "unfiltered” bottling of the 1993 vintage, we have chosen to bottle each subsequent vintage without filtration. The wines show much more vibrant fruit character and rich mouthfeel, particularly in the first year of release, than their filtered predecessors.