Thursday, August 19, 2004

Oak and Chardonnay - Not a Love Story

Ok. I'll try to be gentle.

Message to wine makers and drinkers:

STOP PUTTING CHARDONNAY INTO OAK BARRELS!!! AND STOP BUYING AND DRINKING IT WHEN THEY DO YOU IDIOT CONSUMERS!!!

I admit there are exceptions. The practice originated in the Burgandy region of France. And it certainly works well there.

In the Napa Valley, certain high end growers aped the style with great success. And their stuff also remains deservedly awesome in reputation (and the prices reflect this).

But here's the problem with Chardonnay paired with oak. Chardonnay is a thin bodied, delicate flavored wine. Oak is a 2 x 4 upside the palate. Granted, in certain magical regions this odd couple works despite all expectations. But that's the exception, not the rule. The rule is that pairing Chardonnay with oak means tasting oak.

Here's a test. If the Chardonnay you drink is pretty much only flavored with notes of vanilla, melon, and (gack) toasty-oak, you're not tasting Chardonnay at all. You're tasting the oak barrel (or perhaps - no joke - the oak chips they often toss in before bottling).

And if that flavor is terrific to you anyway, don't bother spending big money. It's available in abundance in the cheapest California Chardonnay on the shelf.

Real Chardonnay grapes grow almost anywhere. In fact it's one of the most popular wine grapes precisely because it's not too picky about climate. But it only tastes exceptional in a few places. And since most likely your vinyard of choice isn't among them, winemakers mask the inferior flavor with oak. And like lemmings the wine consumer plunks down good money for it anyway, because who wants to spend fourty bucks and up for a bottle of good White Burgandy when you can get the same thing for twenty?! Except that in the vast majority of cases, it isn't the same thing at all. It's prettily packaged oak-juice.

Long way of saying, avoid the 2000 Hogue Chardonnay. Plunk down a couple of bucks for a 2 x 4 at Home Depot if that's the flavor you're after.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home