Wellingtonians tasted the tip of the big buttery Chardonnay iceberg at a tasting at Regional Wines & Spirits last night, hosted by yours truly.

The tasting was a sell out because Chardonnay’s popularity is on the rise. This white grape has nearly doubled globally since its creamiest peak in the 1980s when there were 100,000 hectares of it planted . Today, there are nearly 200,000 hectares of Chardonnay in the world, according to the new 2015 release of the latest Oxford Companion to Wine, edited by Masters of Wine Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding.

Where does New Zealand sit in relation to Chardonnay? We look pretty static. Chardonnay has actually shrunk over the past decade from 3,779 hectares in 2006 to 3,361 hectares today. This does not seem to bode well for quantity but it could be suggested that the quality and consistency of New Zealand Chardonnay has never been better, to judge by the potential of Kiwi Chardonnays to age well.

Still, in comparison to our other leading white grapes, Chardonnay needs a push. Back in 2006 there were 8,860 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc and now there are over 20,000 and Pinot Gris has risen inexplicably from 700 hectares to 2400, and then some.

This is inexplicable, to me, because Chardonnay has an easy lead on Pinot Gris in New Zealand in terms of character, quality and consistency of style. Not to mention the potential of this country’s top Chardonnays (and some pretty swish medium priced ones too) to age beautifully for up to, and often beyond, a decade in the bottle.

The big buttery Chardonnays tasted at Regional Wines & Spirits, Thursday 9 June

2014 Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay, Auckland

2015 Tony Bish Summertime Gisborne Chardonnay

2013 Pegasus Bay Chardonnay North Canterbury

2012 Villa Maria Gisborne Chardonnay

2012 Shaw + Smith M3 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay

2013 Saumaize Pouilly-Fuse

2013 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay

2015 Esk Valley Winemaker’s Reserve Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay

2011 Louis Jadot Meursault Narvaux