We continue to review wines to help you pick pours promoting holiday joy.
Poor chardonnay. It is most popular white wine in America, but—maybe because of popularity—it is grape wannabe wine snobs disdain, claiming membership in ABC cult: “Anything But Chardonnay.”
Pity. Some of world’s greatest wines—Champagnes to name one—are made with chardonnay grapes. Oceans of drinkable, food-friendly, life-enhancing chards can be had for 14 dollars or less.
A chardonnay grape basically is neutral in taste. Flavors come from terroir (expression of place where vines grow), fermentation method, use of oak. Chardonnay taste and quality depend on the winemaker. Styles range from “flinty” Chablis, to buttery Californa chards, to wines with tropical fruit flavors.
Fermentation is key decision. With malolactic fermentation, malic acid converts into softer lactic acid to produce buttery flavors. With no malolactic fermentation, the wine has a sharper, green apple taste.
Use of oak is second key decision. Oak infuses “toastiness” and variety of other flavors depending on length of time the wine is exposed to oak and type of oak.
Malolactic-fermented, oak-finished chard descriptions: creamy, buttery, vanilla. These chards go well with smoked white meats, creamy sauces, pork roast, veal. Can work as main pour during main course.
Non-malolactic fermented, stainless-steel finished chard descriptions: crisp, fresh, green apples, citrus. These go well with seafood and light hors d’oeuvres. Great at start of holiday meals.
Some chard makers split difference by restraining time in oak or blending oaked and non-oaked wine. Chardonnay can be made so many different ways you’ve got to like at least one.
• Big House Unchained Naked Chardonnay 2011. Clean, bright; green apple, pear; nice acidity & fruit expression; no oak/no malo value winner. $10
• Noble Vines 446 Chardonnay 2010. Apple, pineapple, apricot; clean-crisp acidity, creamy-silky-medium body; easy toasty oak; nice value. $11
• Lapostolle Casa Chardonnay 2011. Pleasing citrus, pineapple nose; light, crisp, refreshing; good acidity; faint oak/no malolactic butter; Chilean winner. $12
• Markham Vineyards Chardonnay 2011. Big apple, toasty oak, citrus and butter, lush mouth, nice acidity; classic Napa chard at nice price. $13
• Bonterra Chardonnay Mendocino County 2011. Buttery, smooth, mouth-pleasing; apple, citrus, melon; bright, clean, tart, pure, fun; organic. $14
• Michael & David Phillips Chardonnay Lodi 7 Heavenly Chardonnay 2010. Simple, clean; pineapple, banana; restrained oak; nice acidity. $17
• Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Chardonnay 2011. Clean; bright acidity; pear, melon; creamy, delicious, versatile easy drinker. $20
Last round: Doctors say a glass of wine a day can extend your life. If true, I am going to live forever.