Discovering Chardonnay

“I don’t care for Chardonnay”.  When I hear this statement, my response is typically to ask which type ~  crisp and acidic? smooth and buttery? Or both?  … “uh, Chardonnay”.    

Chardonnay is one of the most diverse white wines out there, with flavors ranging from crisp (lemony citrus, green apple, passionfruit) to creamy (buttered popcorn, pie crust, crème brulee), and everything in between.  It took a lot of tasting to determine what I like, and don’t like about Chardonnay.  But, along the way I learned that asking a couple of key questions helps determine the likelihood of enjoying it. 

Oak or No Oak?

Oak: wines aged in oak typically have rich, intense flavors of butter, vanilla, and even caramel. 

No Oak:  wines processed in steel tanks, or neutral oak tend to be more crisp and acidic, with flavors of green apple, pear, lemon, and pineapple. 

Malolactic Fermintation (MLF)?

MLF is a winemaking process in which tart-tasting malic acid is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid.  It’s what gives the wine that smooth, rounder, creamy feel.  Chardonnays with larger amounts of MLF are your butter bombs. 

I’m sure you are thinking…those are great questions if I’m at a tasting.  But, when I’m staring at a wall of Chardonnay how do I know if it was done in oak or not, or has been through malo-whatever? That is a little more difficult to do. Another quick tip, take a look at what region the wine is from ~ this can be a good indicator as well:

Like crisp and acidic?  Look for wines from cooler climate regions like Sonoma Coast and Oregon

Like smooth and buttery?  Look for wines from warmer climate regions like Napa Valley and Paso Robles

So, for those of you who “don’t care for Chardonnay”, I challenge you to keep drinking!  You may discover one that hits just the right balance for your palate.   

Here’s some of our favorites:

Cuvaison S-Block

Domaine Drouhin “Arthur”

Simi Alexander Valley

Grgich Hills 

Posted on August 9, 2013 and filed under Wine Discoveries.