Anything AND Chardonnay - Robin Makes an Effort to Overcome
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed June 16, 2004. For more information go to wineloverspage.com
For many years, I've been a preacher of the "Anything But Chardonnay" gospel, advising wine lovers to break out of the traditional mold and try new and different wine experiences.
Of course the "ABC" chorus doesn't really mean that all Chardonnay should be avoided, all of the time. It's just an irreverent bumper-sticker slogan to illustrate the unfortunate reality that, during the past generation, Chardonnay has become something of a symbol for boring wine, too often grown in industrial agri-business style and produced to a mass market, lowest-common-denominator standard - your basic "glass of white wine," best swigged as a casual cocktail drink without thoughtful analysis.
But my recent trip to Burgundy - detailed here online - gave me a useful and needed taste of reality. And I do mean taste. In this historic French wine region, there's a reason why Chardonnay has been recognized for centuries as the noble white-wine grape. Grown with honesty and vinified with care, showing proper respect to the fruit and the soil, it remains one of the world's great wines. No one doubts the quality of a Corton-Charlemagne, or a Grands Cru from Meursault, or an excellent (real) Chablis. But even more modest Chardonnay-based whites from the Maconnais taste mighty fine in Burgundy, fresh and fruity and not stewed into a sweet, oaky soup.
But can cheap Chardonnay rise above the bland median? How about cheap New World Chardonnay? Inspired by these Burgundian musings, I propose a simple test for this month's featured topic in Wine Tasting 101. Over the next few weeks, I'll overcome my "ABC" reluctance and taste a number of decidedly modest Chardonnays, from France, California, Australia and other wine-producing regions. From time to time I'll try them in blind tasting pairs, Old World versus New.
I invite you to join me, and share your observations in our interactive Wine Tasting 101 Forum. The following pair of inexpensive, widely distributed wines is suggested as a benchmark, but please feel free to join the fun with any Chardonnays of your choosing.
LOUIS JADOT 2002 MACON-VILLAGES CHARDONNAY U.S. importer: Kobrand Corp., NYC. Louis Jadot
SMOKING LOON 2002 CALIFORNIA CHARDONNAY Smoking Loon