Some things just instinctively go together, brandy and a good cigar, vintage port and blue cheese, then there's Chardonnay and oak barrels!

Yes sir, it’s one of the best partnerships ever discovered and it creates some of the finest wines known to man. Chardonnay can produce lovely fruity wines without seeing so much as a matchstick never mind a barrel but pair it with oak and the wine can transform to a complex wine with several layers.

Chardonnay is just one of those grapes to be honest, you know the type, like a polite but boring dinner companion who can come to life when paired up with the right companion. Tempranillo is another and the pairing with oak gave birth to the legend that is Rioja and while I don't profess to understand the chemistry, I'm happy to acknowledge the result.

Fresh oak barrels react with Chardonnay to give it more colour, in addition to vanilla and hints of spice, which in turn leaves you with a wine that can range in style from light yellow with just a hint of butter to the most incredible deep yellow wines with lashings of creamy caramel-like flavours and hints of honey. You typically get to the latter level in the upper echelons of Burgundy such as the great Montrachets but many new world vineyards are offering a similar experience for a fraction of the price now. Its a brave new world and I love it!

Barrels tend to be roasted over an open fire during their production and the strength of the roast can have a big impact on the eventual style of the wine produced. Equally important is the size of the barrel because its physical contact with the wood that transforms the wine so the smaller the barrel, the more intimate the relationship is.

While the French have long mastered the relationship, three new world countries, Australia, South Africa and the USA have become the modern masters of the art. I'm particularly drawn to some of the South African vineyards at present but that's probably because they tend to adopt a more Burgundian style which I love and one to watch out for in particular is De Wetshof Estate who even have a wine to rival Batard Montrachet and that’s saying something. The Aussies tend to go for more spice and fruit while the Californians produce a softer, more rounded wine almost like a neutered Burgundy but each style has its own place in my league table of great chardonnays folks. Anyway, it’s time to liberate a cork or two.

Nelson Family Vineyards Chardonnay, SA

Soft white peach aromas on the nose with crisp refreshing fruits on the palate backed up by hints of caramel and a lightly toasted finish. A real stunner that pairs beautifully with most fish dishes or pasta.

Corney & Barrow £16.25

Penfolds Koonunga Hill Chardonnay, Australia

Penfolds is still the benchmark producer for top-quality chardonnay at a reasonable price. A delicious wine with melons, creamy vanilla and just a hint of buttered toast on the finish. Fabulous with a chilled crab or salmon salad.

Tesco £9.00