It’s summer. It’s hot. And for many, that means a refreshing cool white wine. So let’s look at the most widely planted white grape in the world: Chardonnay. I know, I know, I can already hear the atmospheric groans. But, if I had a dollar for every person who, at Northwest Cellars, said to me, “I don’t normally like Chardonnay, but, this is really good!” Well…who knows where I’d be! So it’s not about the grape per se. It’s about the style. And terroir.
We can thank the 12th century monks of Burgundy for developing the concept of terroir i.e. what grows best where. And, just so you know, the Burgundy region in France is Chardonnay’s ancestral homeland. The world renowned White Burgundy is Chardonnay. As is Chablis.
Choosing Your Chardonnay
When you are looking for a Chard that meets your “yum requirements”, think about what you enjoy. If you like a more refreshing bright and crisp wine, look for a wine that is unoaked or has very little oak influence. Oak adds flavors and texture, more or less, depending on the size of the barrel, whether it is a new barrel or a used barrel, and from where the actual wood comes. That is just a very brief overview because oak is a subject bigger than a barrel of monkeys. But these are winemaker choices that greatly influence the style of the wine and things you can ask about.
Another phenomenon that influences the final product is malolactic fermentation. This is a secondary bacterial fermentation that usually takes place after the primary fermentation. This, like oak, is also a choice but, will happen naturally when you’re not looking if you’re not paying attention.
Bacteria wait for no man. Or woman. And, while this may sound a tad unsavory, it actually does a rather nice thing, if you want it to, by converting tart tasting malic acid (think green apples) to softer tasting lactic acid (think milk). This results in softer, rounder mouthfeel and a slight buttery flavor. This is not appropriate for all grapes where the winemaker wants to keep characteristic acidity and fruit aromas, but most Chardonnay goes through it. Interesting, right?
Ok, enough for now. But, after all this, I’m thinkin’ you might want to try Northwest Cellars Chardonnay! Only about 30% oaked. Crisp and refreshing for this warm weather. And no extra charge for the malolactic fermentation!
Then try the Viognier. Viognier!? Ah, we’ll talk Viognier another day!