a lesson in French Chardonnay

In a recent conversation with the wife of a Chablis producer, I felt validation in my love affair with Chardonnay.  When I asked her what types of wine she liked best, she said "when I drink white, I drink Chablis, of course, but sometimes, for something different, I like white Burgundy." Perhaps I need say nothing more than that, but really in this simple comment, there is an education in understanding the nuanced character of Chardonnay.

If you know me at all, you know that I adore Chardonnay.  You may think it is a bit cliché, but to me, it is just good common sense.  It is a varietal that is incredibly satisfying in all aspects, not to mention that it is the most widely planted varietal on the planet (so, I am not alone in my opinion).  What is it I like?  I like the mixture of familiar aromas: popcorn, caramel, pineapple, stone fruits, apples, the brine of oysters.  These are scents that bring me comfort.  On the palate, it has a delicate balance of power and elegance, this is always what I seek in wine.  Of course, the choice of oak use will change the wine dramatically, from rich and buttery in an oaked Chardonnay (yum) to the fresh and more acidic style of an unoaked one (Chablis reference making some sense now?).  In age worthy chards, sometimes you get a little oxidation, which can give the wine a little cheesey-savory quality, which I love.  And, the finish, the sense that you have just enjoyed a romp in the sea and lingering taste of the salt water is in your throat; or perhaps you have just finished some fresh oysters.  This is a sensation that invokes a feeling of carefree summer afternoons.  

Ready for a sip yet?  There are a few of the wonderful and varied Chardonnay's that we tried while visiting Burgundy and Babs had them open this weekend at the shop.  If you are anything like me, a card carrying member of the Chardonnay club, you will appreciate the chance to  experience the nuanced distinctions for yourself, and see if you understand Anne's comment. Start with the L'Eglise Chablis, which for $20 is a steal.  It is fine example of the fresh style of Chablis.  Then, progress to the Gautheron Chablis, which is also an unoaked chard, but is a little richer in style than L'Eglise.  Then, I suggest trying the Billard, where the use of neutral oak gives the wine a different texture and richer style, though it is still lean and fresh, the wine has a roundness that comes from oak.  

It has been a fascinating journey, but I am ready to return to Newport.  I will see you in the shop this week!