Welcome to Wine on Wednesday!
Wine on Wednesday will be a regular series on wine varietals to provide resources and education to help even self proclaimed “wine haters” find a wine they love. I believe that everyone can find a wine they enjoy drinking when they have a general understanding of the differences between them.
Last week I introduced the Wine on Wednesday series and discussed some basic wine terms and definitions. This week we begin exploring wine varietals, and our first varietal is the most popular wine on the market: Chardonnay. Chardonnay is America’s number one selling wine, and it is the also world’s most popular white wine grape, with over 300,000 acres planted, and 100,000 acres in California alone (source: DrinkWine.com.)
Chardonnay typically tends to be a less sweet, and/or drier varietal of white wine. When we discussed the basic wine definitions in our first installment, “dry” in wine terms refers to the amount of sugar in a wine, and the dry feeling your tongue may have after drinking it. This type of wine is often characterized as having a buttery flavor, and this is due to malolactic fermentation in Chardonnay grapes. If you’re wondering what “buttery” means when referring to wine, the flavor truly tastes buttery or creamy, usually in the finish. Finish is more like the after taste; it may not be the first flavor you taste when sampling the wine, but it may be the last flavor you taste on your tongue. Chardonnay can also have hints of vanilla and oak due to the barrels they are fermented in.
In addition to the buttery, oakey flavors that often describe Chardonnay wine, many flavors and aromas of fruit can be found in Chardonnay wines, including apple, pear, citrus, melon, and pineapple. As a side note, have you ever wondered how wines get flavors like apple and pineapple when they’re made from grapes? Do winemakers add fruit to their wines? Winemakers definitely don’t add fruit to their wines; the fruity notes in wines come from the flavor in the grapes, as well as the fermentation in the winemaking process. For more information on fermentation, check out Wine X Magazine.
Now on to age of Chardonnay. While many wines, especially red wines, improve their overall flavor with age (you know the term-age like a fine wine), Chardonnay wine is typically meant to be consumed with less aging. When choosing a Chardonnay, a bottle around 2-3 years old will still be a great bottle of wine.
Now that we’ve learned some of the basics of the Chardonnay wine, could this be the wine for you? If you tend to prefer a medium bodied flavor (sweeter than a red wine but not too sweet), this may be a good choice for you. The thing I like best about Chardonnay is the finish, which can be buttery or include hints of vanilla or oak. If you aren’t someone who likes a lot of oak flavor in your wine, this may still be a good choice as the flavors of oak are typically lighter with a Chardonnay. Keep in mind that there can be a lot of variation in brands of Chardonnay, so read the labels when choosing one to try, and try more than one brand! Chardonnay wines that indicate primary flavors like apple and pineapple will tend to be a little sweeter, while wines that boast flavors of vanilla, oak or butter flavors may be more rich and robust.
Food pairings are a big part of wine tasting, because different types of food can really enhance the flavor of a wine, and vice versa. Chardonnay wines typically pair well with lighter foods such as poultry and seafood and pasta dishes with lighter sauces or even cream based sauces.
I believe that a great bottle of wine can be purchased for less than $20, especially when it comes to white wines like Chardonnays. Just keep in mind that as the price of a wine increases, so does its complexity. Less expensive wines may only feature a fruity note, where a more expensive wine will feature multiple notes such as fruit, vanilla and oak. Multiple notes make for a more interesting taste in a wine. That being said, Here are a few of my favorite Chardonnay brands:
I hope you’ve learned something new in this installment of Wine on Wednesdays, and please stop by again next week to learn more about Cabernet Sauvignon!