2018 Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay
I hear it every time a new employee starts: “I don’t like Chardonnay. Won’t drink it.”
And while that is completely understandable, it also gets my imbibing libido all charged up. You see, I love Chardonnay – not all Chardonnay, but enough to make me want to share its golden yumminess with everyone. So like the Cheshire Cat I ask, “Whaaaat Chardonnays have you been drinking???”
And with that, I’ve already won the negotiation – drinking and time can solve any problem, and certainly, this is one of them. So let’s drink!
But let’s talk about Chardonnay’s problems first, because they are legit:
First, Chardonnay can, and is, grown anywhere and everywhere. And just because you serve billions, doesn’t mean you’re making a good burger.
Second, Chardonnay likes oak barrels. Chardonnay on its own has the chemical precursors for diacetyl and vanillin. Combine these precursors with the alcohol’s ability to solve the very same chemicals from oak, and you’ve got the twelve-year-old’s dream of unlimited movie popcorn flavoring (a diacetyl / oil stabilized formula – sadly, it’s not butter).
Third, Chardonnay takes well to malolactic fermentation. Misnamed, it’s actually a bacteria conversion of green apple-like acids to cream-like acids. Winemakers can go all the way, making their Chardonnays as viscous as cream.
The summation? That voodoo can be overdone. It is overdone. But I want to win this argument (and sell you some wine) so here’s my next axiom – because billions are served, doesn’t mean that some, maybe even many, Chardonnays aren’t downright tasty. Even beyond tasty – they are some of the best white wines in the world.
So what Chardonnays are you drinking?
If you’re drinking wines with names like “melted butter bacon pancakes” or “vanilla cream morning howlitzer” than yeah, those are going to be some pretty divisive Chardonnays. It’s not their bigness or their flavor I am objecting to; it’s their lack of balance. Plenty of Chardonnays worldwide can be made with 100% new oak and 100% malolactic, including Le Montrachets, Batard Montrachets, and in the U.S., Kistler, Marcassin, Ramey single vineyards, Ridge Montebello and of course, Rombauer. Big can be exceptionally beautiful, but even more so – when perfectly balanced, it can dance like no other white wine:
A gorgeous aroma of apricots poached in vanilla and white wine with touches of Marcona almonds exudes from the glass. The palate carries through luxurious amounts of caramelized citrus, apple blossom, orange marmalade and Marcona almonds. Indeed, this wine does see new oak, and it does go through malolactic. But the key is the balance – its flavors are a synthesis of fruit, minerality, refreshment and refinement.
And so the answer becomes – you do like Chardonnay, you just haven’t found the one you like yet. I’d like to wager that Beringer’s Napa Valley Chard will do the trick.
“This is a really solid white with so much structure and depth, as well as a border-less, encompassing palate. Full-bodied and polished with lots of length. Shows complex flavors, from cooked apples and lemons to stones and hints of flowers. Still tight. Needs time to come together. Drink after 2021.” – James Suckling
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