2018-09-01 / Wine Notes

The ABCs of Chardonnay

Robert D. Richards, CSW

Not too many years ago, the American wine palate grew tired of Chardonnay, or so it seemed. The ABC movement — “Anything But Chardonnay” — vociferously maligned the omnipresent varietal throughout the land. The anti-Chards had a point: Just about every bar served it by the glass and every banquet poured it by the jug.

Contributing to the malaise was the sameness associated with Chardonnay in this country. Most bottles contained wine that was heavily oaked and put through malolactic fermentation, a secondary process that converts the crisper malic acid to the creamier lactic acid, giving the Chardonnay a buttery quality.

Some wine drinkers are unyielding fans of this type of Chardonnay, and there is still plenty available to serve their needs. But some winemakers heard the call of the detractors and decided to create a product that showcased more of the grape itself rather than the barrel or winemaking process.

The results are good. Today, some wineries even herald the “unoaked” quality of the wine right on the label, and some wine drinkers are rediscovering a varietal that likely first introduced them to white wine.

The Wine Institute, the trade association for the California wine industry, reports that Chardonnay is still that state’s most widely planted grape. Late summer is when much of those grapes will be harvested in California and made into wine.

While the grape grows in many climates and microclimates, the best results come from cooler areas, such as the Carneros region in southern Napa and Sonoma counties. Oregon also has a good climate for the Burgundian varietals. The cooler weather helps the grape maintain its acidity and that means a crisper, more full-bodied wine in the glass. •SCM

Balletto Vineyards and Winery Teresa’s Unoaked Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2015
(#74048, $19.99)
Shows hints of green apple, citrus and a bit of caramel.
Willamette Valley Vineyards Dijon Clones Chardonnay 2015
(#47446, $21.99)
Those who like barrel flavors will enjoy the toast and vanilla present in this wine from Oregon. It also highlights pear and some tropical notes.
Louis Jadot Chablis Fourchaume 2012
(#48947, $25.79)
This popular offering from
Burgundy showcases the region’s minerality along with apples and citrus.

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