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For Chardonnay, Forgo the Oak PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jacqueline Coleman, BT Contributor   
July 2020

Red, white, and you: Agreeable wine for $15 or less

IPix_Vino_7-20n the world of wine, Chardonnay can get a bad rap. What other grape elicits so many mixed opinions from wine lovers as to whether the wine is desirable or just plain unpalatable?

When it comes to Chardonnay, there tend to be two camps of drinkers, and very rarely do they cross over to the other side. We’re talking about those who prefer their Chardonnay oaked and those who prefer it with the absence of oak.

When made in large volumes without much thought, Chardonnay can sometimes feel flabby and awkward in the mouth. It’s not known as a classic food-pairing wine, especially when weighed down by cheap oak barrel alternatives like staves and chips used in some bulk wine production. However, it seems as though every wine lover remembers his or her favorite bottle of Chardonnay, and when done right, it’s a darn good wine.

Did you know that Chardonnay is the wine of Chablis? The white grape of Champagne? Though these regions are examples of some of the more premium styles of Chardonnay, there are still some excellent bottles at our Vino price point. Next time you’re looking for a “darn good” Chardonnay, say ixnay to oak, and try one of these seven bottles.

Those who prefer their Chardonnay with riper fruit flavors will appreciate the 2018 Pam’s Unoaked Chardonnay from a family-owned winery in California. “Pam’s” is chock-full of ripe stone fruit aromas like peaches and apricots along with citrus and pineapple. In the mouth, the wine is medium-bodied with tropical fruit flavors mixed in with canned peaches for a soft, easy-drinking, fruity Chardonnay.

The 2018 River Road Unoaked Chardonnay is part of a family of wines by Sonoma County vintner Ron Rubin. This bottle also has pronounced fruit flavors of golden apples and sticky tropical fruits like mango along with fully ripened stone fruit and sweetened pears. Still clean and rounded in the mouth, the River Road Unoaked Chardonnay is a balanced wine worth sharing with a meal of grilled chicken or fish.

Out of Paso Robles, California, is the 2018 Strictly Chard, a dry wine that is reminiscent of drinking the juice from a tropical fruit salad in the glass. Concentrated fruit aromas like passion fruit, pineapples, mango, and a hint of banana greet you on the nose. Those strong tropical flavors along with dried apricots and soft acidity make this wine a lovely option for outside sipping during the hot summer months.

Our last California bottle and the oldest of the wines here is the 2016 Dalliance Chardonnay by Shannon Ridge Family Wines, another family-owned and sustainably farmed winery. Crisp green apple, banana, and mango round out the aromas, and are mirrored in the palate, which is dominated by the essence of sultry, summer fruit. This is not the wine for those who prefer a more classic Chablis-style wine, as it is lacking a bit in acidity and heavy on the warmer-climate flavors.

Outside of California, we have three refreshing Chardonnay options. Though Burgundy Chardonnays are usually out of our Vino price range, there are other regions in France that may surprise you. The 2018 Domaine de Bernier Chardonnay from the Loire Valley is a bottle for the Francophile wine-os that is produced by the Couillaud Family at the Château de la Ragotière in the Muscadet region. No oak is used, but 80 percent of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation in order to soften the acidity, which is still high. Aromas of citrus and green apple give way to flavors of lemon-lime and pear. Bernier makes a beautifully lean Chardonnay that would be excellent with grilled seafood.

The 2018 Luc Pirlet Classique Unoaked Chardonnay is also from France. With fresh fruit aromas like apple, lemon, peach, and apricot, this is a more delicate wine with a shorter, subdued finish. The freshness of the wine is enhanced by minerality on the palate for a clean, quiet wine overall.

Last, we have the 2019 Domaine Bousquet Unoaked Chardonnay from the high-altitude vineyards of Tupungato in Mendoza, Argentina. There are no subtleties in the ripe fruit flavors of this wine. It’s bursting with tropical fruits, citrus, and green apple flavors, with crisp, sharp acidity, and a long, full finish. When it comes to value wines made from organic grapes, this unoaked Chardonnay is truly top of the list.

 

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