Do You Like Chardonnay?
By Daniel (Wine Specialist)
Something we hear quite often is, “I don’t like Chardonnay.” Well let’s take another look at Chardonnay because, to be fair to Chard, it’s pretty innocuous. It’s clay and can be molded into pretty much whatever one pleases. This is why it is the most widely planted white grape variety on the planet!
Arguably the best wines in the world are made from Chardonnay.
In its purest form it is Chablis. Totally unadulterated: fresh, pure, clean, minerally and racing with acidity. In its most manipulated form it is massive and mouth-filling; smelling of toffee, tasting of mango and dripping with butter. Most wines fall in the middle.
The below wines are neutral or have minimal oak.
That butter that made Chardonnay so popular for a time comes from malolactic fermentation, wherein tart malic acid is converted to softer lactic acid (the same lactic acid we find in milk). A biproduct of the reaction is diacetyl which imparts a buttery flavor. Toffee, vanilla, baking spices all come from the oak. Oak char is a whole other conversation. For a time, many Chards went through both malo and into new oak. Those wines were “oaky and buttery.” Chardonnay for a long time became that style. Style and varietal were synonymous. And it gave way to a sea of insipid representations.
The spectrum of flavor for Chard runs from floral and lemon all the way to pineapple. Ripeness at harvest has much to do with this. Those wines that are wildly tropical, go through malo and see new oak are falling out of fashion at the moment. The result is an eye on unoaked styles of Chardonnay or just well-made Chard.
The below wines have more Oak or Malo
The best wines in the world...
This is great! Arguably the best wines in the world are made from Chardonnay. Domaine de la Romanee Conti makes a Chard from the Le Montrachet vineyard in Burgundy. This wine commands upwards of $10,000 a bottle.
Also, the best Champagnes are made from Chardonnay. There are wonderful expressions of Chardonnay at great price points from all over the world. These wines have zippy acidity, ultra-fresh fruit and range from light to medium in body.
These wines are some of the best.
I never liked Chardonnay. What do i do?
Do ask questions. Some wines see malo but no oak and so we taste butter but no toast. Also, there is lees stirring. Lees are dead yeast cells. After converting sugar to alcohol the yeast, having served its purpose in life, die.
Some wines are settled and the wine is racked off (racking is moving liquid from one vessel to another). Other wines are filtered. But many sit on the lees. This provides a level of complexity and texture. One step further is batonnage. This is a process of stirring the lees. Lees can give the impression of oak but is very different. Flint or smoke is a more accurate description.
The below wines have time spent on lees.
Give Chardonnay a 2nd, 3rd or 4th chance!