PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 May, 2010, 12:00am

Like a spotty teenager, Californian chardonnay suffered a few ugly breakouts during its adolescence. The region battled the kind of problems that plague teenagers: uncontrolled growth spurts, unsightly braces, embarrassing body changes and too much experimental make- up. Thankfully, ugly ducklings evolve and most Californian chardonnays have matured: height has caught up with breadth; body is in balance with acidity; alcohol in harmony with fruit; and the make-up - the oak and lees - has been artfully applied.

Landmark Overlook chardonnay 2006

Blended from the grapes of three Californian regions, this wine shows its pedigree with a dollop of ripe tropical fruit from Santa Barbara backed by lean racy chardonnay grown in cooler Sonoma County and Monterey vineyards. Savoury and complex, it's well-structured with very good length. Slightly tannic texture demands this wine be served with food. Try it with braised pork belly.

Available for HK$312 at Golden Gate Wine (tel: 2891 8181)

Ferrari-Carano chardonnay 2007, Alexander Valley

Immediately identifiable as chardonnay, with tropical fruit that entices, rather than overwhelms. Well-balanced and supported by clean acidity - probably due to its origin in the cooler hills of Sonoma County's Alexander Valley - which keeps the wine refreshing. Lean style with excellent length. A chardonnay-lover's wine. Try with white-cut chicken (bak chik gai).

Available for HK$250 at Golden Gate Wine

HdV Hyde Vineyard chardonnay 2006, Carneros

A joint venture between the de Villaine (of DRC fame) and Hyde families, this wine shows great promise. Clean, quiet, subtle chardonnay fruit with the flavour of yellow apple with citrusy hints. Medium-bodied with tangy acidity. This is the lightest wine of this group. It's drinkable now but still youthful and will improve with time to allow full oak integration and fruit evolution. Try with a subtle Cantonese dish, such as steamed egg white and diced lobster.

Available for HK$528 at Watson's Wine Cellar (tel: 2606 8828)

Trefethen Estate chardonnay 2007, Oak Knoll, Napa Valley

Perfumed, buttery notes, citrusy-accented pear compote with hints of spicy clove. A delicious and enticing wine that is nearing its prime, so drink soon. Complex and buxom. Weight with good length. Slight bitterness and warmth on finish. Serve with braised goose.

Available for HK$215 at Watson's Wine Cellar (tel: 2606 8828)

Ramey Wine Cellars chardonnay 2006, Sonoma Coast

Ripe yellow apple with herbal hints. Medium-bodied, fresh acidity. Slightly warm on the finish. Good length. Try with steamed shrimp dumplings.

Available for HK$290 at Altaya (tel: 2523 1945)

Robert Mondavi chardonnay 2006, Napa Valley

Full-bodied, mouth-filling wine with buttery, leesy notes accenting tropical fruit. Fresh acidity keeps the wine lively and fleet-footed, probably because the fruit is grown in windy, cool Carneros at the southern tip of Napa Valley. This is an all-rounder - if a touch mundane. The wine is ready to be drunk now but don't expect a high degree of complexity or evolution. Serve with braised chicken hot pot.

Available for HK$176 at Jebsen Fine Wine (tel: 3180 3424)

Debra Meiburg is a master of wine