Chardonnay, the ubiquitous white.
Chardonnay is the
The history of Chardonnay is somewhat unclear, but there is a town of the same name in Mâcon in the Burgundy region of
To keep things simple, you can expect to run into three basic flavor profiles of Chardonnay: minerally, oaky, and buttery. Here's an illustration of each:
Louis Jadot 2005 Mâcon-Villages (
Alamos 2005 Chardonnay (
Kendall-Jackson 2005 Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay (
First up is the crisp taste of the Louis Jadot. In French wine nomenclature, the best wines are named after their particular chateau or town where the vineyard is planted. Pouilly-Fuissé is known as the home of the best white Burgundies. The name actually refers to two towns, between which lie the vineyards. These wines tend to run $25 and up. However, "Mâcon-Villages" means that the grapes can be from anywhere in Mâcon -- the region in which Pouilly and Fuissé are located. For my money, a Mâcon-Villages is every bit as good at less than half the cost.
This wine has a very light nose -- citrusy and light, with a little scent of something like licorice. The taste is very clean and a little tart, like green apples. The finish is very crisp and pleasant. This is a classic French Chardonnay, which tastes almost more like Sauvignon Blanc than Chardonnays from other places in the world. It's extremely refreshing and light.
Next, we'll let the Argentinean Chardonnay give us the "oak" profile. Over the last several years,
The Alamos starts with a nose of ripe peaches, but the taste shifts radically. As crisp and light as the French version is, this one is much bigger. The flavor is of peaches, toasted almonds, and smoke. You can't miss the oak here. You'll know exactly from here on out what someone's talking about when they mention oaky. The finish is smoky and lasts a long time.
Finally, bring in the butter.
The Kendall-Jackson smells sweeter and heavier than the Alamos, much more like peach cobbler than peaches. The flavor has a little bit of sweetness and some more of that peach flavor, but it's got a very creamy vanilla taste as well. Again, in comparison to the Alamos -- the oakier wine had a stronger flavor, but the buttery one was richer and fuller. There was a little bit of oak on the finish, held in check by the creaminess.
What to eat with these? If I were drinking one on its own, I'd go with the Louis Jadot. I'd also have this with just about any kind of lighter fish or shellfish dish. An oaky chardonnay will pair more effectively with something smokier, like grilled chicken or veggies, or even a filet if you want white with a steak. The buttery chardonnay -- predictably, goes more effectively with creamier sauces, richer fishes, and almost anything you can picture with butter.
We made a rich fish dish when we did our tasting. The Sweet Partner in Crime liked the Kendall-Jackson, although I thought the Alamos made an interesting pairing. So, in short, experiment and find what you like. There's a Chardonnay out there for almost everyone.
Next up, we dare return to big red territory -- Syrah.