Summer + White = Chardonnay, Could Be

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Delishcious'ness right off the Vine!

There aren’t many other grape varietals that conjure up such strong feeling of love or disgust, at just at the mere mention of its name than the Chardonnay grape.

People who hate Chardonnay, typically have had a bad experience years ago with one of those big, butter-laden, oak-monster wines. Good news if you are one of these people, there is so much more to Chardonnay that is just waiting for you to discover.

Chardonnay is one of the most food-friendly, versatile varietals. Styles can range from tangy and acidic, to lush and buttery; sparkling to still; and tropical to citric. You can see where this broad spectrum can come in handy when pairing food with wine. The trick is to know what kind of style you are getting.

*Unoaked Chardonnay* is the answer to the recent anti-oak backlash. Many producers are adding this wine style to their repertoire and will advertise it as such. “Unoaked” or “Stainless Steel” will appear on the back label, which means this wine will be void of any of those butter, nut, spice, or other oak aromas. Instead it will be crisp, refreshing and intended for
immediate enjoyment. This style of Chardonnay is best paired with summer salads, lighter fish, and as a counter-balance to creamy dishes.

*White Burgundy* is Chardonnay produced in the motherland of Chardonnay – Burgundy, France. Sure if you think of “Burgundy” as a color, this may seem like an oxymoron, but “Burgundy” (or “Borgogne” in French) is a geographical region in the middle of France, south of Paris. Here, you won’t find “Chardonnay” on the label, but instead the specific village that it comes from like “Chablis”, “Puligny Montrachet”, or “Pouilly Fuisse”. Most producers use minimal oak and aim to express the* terrior* of their vineyard. White Burgundy tends to be minerally (notes of chalk of wet stone on the nose), crisp but round, and balanced. This style is best suited for seafood dishes, roasted chicken, lighter pork preparations (especially with mustard), cheese, and fried food (believe it or not there is nothing finer than french fries or potato chips with a glass of Meursault).

*Oaky Chardonnay* was extremely popular in California in the late 1980s to 1990s. Here, wine makers wanted to push the envelope and achieve high alcohol percentages, utilize expensive oak barrels, and create a big, in-your-face style of Chardonnay. Most wineries have realized that too much oak is not a good thing, so many have toned it down in the last decade. But that is not to say that they have dropped their oaking ways, and it is good that they haven’t.

These wines are delicious with the right food. Typically, if you look at a California Chardonnay wine label and the alcohol is over 13.5% and the back label indicated that the wine has been aged or fermented in oak, you are going to be in for a big, buttery, oaky wine. These wines are best with lobster, grilled and smoked fish or chicken, and even red meat – yes, red meat. If you are not a red wine drinker, but want something to go with your filet mignon, oaky Chardonnay is going to be your best pairing option.


-Jaclyn Stuart, YN Chick Blog- Certified Sommelier & WSET-Certified

PIWC Chardonnay Pick of the Week- Newton 08, and Newton 07 Unfiltered Chardonnay- Tasted by us, and only a HINT of oak on the buds

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