One of the tools a winemaker uses to craft their own style is oak. The extent to which wine is oaked depends on choices made throughout the winemaking process, allowing the winemaker to distinguish their Chardonnays from the rest.
To Oak or Not to Oak?
by Matthew Lorman
Every painter starts off with a blank canvas. Much like a canvas, Chardonnay is crafted into what the winemaker wants it to become--simple and clean, full-bodied and buttery, or as complex as Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
One of the tools a winemaker uses to craft their own style is oak. The extent to which wine is oaked depends on choices made throughout the winemaking process, allowing the winemaker to distinguish their Chardonnays from the rest. Oak incorporates flavors such as toast, smoked, vanilla, and baking spices into a wine. Unoaked versions are lighter compared to its oaked counterparts. Experiment to see what your favorite style is.
Regardless of the style you gravitate towards, there is a food pairing to help make the most of it. Check out the following food and wine pairing tips. There is surely a Chardonnay out there for every meal.
A Chardonnay for those that don’t like Chardonnay
If you’re “not a fan” of Chardonnay, allow me to introduce you to Chablis. This unoaked style of wine is Chardonnay in its purest form. The natural flavors of the grape shine through when made without the presence of oak. For those looking for something clean and crisp, look no further than this Chardonnay-producing region in the northern limits of Burgundy, France. A sip of Chablis is surely an electrifying experience. Flavors of fresh citrus and green apple with a mineral streak make this wine an excellent pairing for goat cheese, raw oysters, and poached lobster.
Unoaked Chardonnay can also be found in the cooler regions in California and the Pacific Northwest, hence retaining bright acidity and fresh fruit flavors. Pair these wines with dishes like a spring vegetable risotto or prawns cooked in garlic butter. The acidity is just what you need to counteract the richness of these dishes.
The Gold Standard of Chardonnay
Burgundy is revered as the home of Chardonnay. Burgundian whites strike a balance between fruit notes, creaminess, and subtle oak undertones that make any wine enthusiast jealous. Classic fruit flavors of yellow apple and underripe pineapple are complemented by subtle cream, hazelnut, and toast notes. Richer dishes with a cream sauce are a knockout pairing for a white Burgundy. Try it out with a roasted chicken with a white wine butter sauce, corn chowder, or sautéed chanterelle mushrooms.
Roll Out The Barrels
It is impossible to have a discussion on Chardonnay without mention of California. These wines burst with flavors of ripe citrus, apricot, pineapple, and mango, often rounded out by notes of sweet baking spices, butter, caramel, popcorn, and vanilla. The moderate use of oak means that these wines are fuller-bodied with an opulent mouthfeel, calling for a food pairing that can stand up to these bold wines. Try pairing California Chardonnays with sage marinated pork loin, grilled salmon, or creamy polenta. For a fun treat, make yourself a big bowl of buttered popcorn, and feel how the richness of these wines interact with the richness. Other popular New World wine regions to be on the lookout for that make excellent Chardonnay are Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
There are endless possibilities when it comes to Chardonnay and so are the food pairings. Get started on your Chardonnay journey and find out which style suits you best. Need help picking something delicious out? Fret not, my friend. We here at DCanter Wine Boutique are here for you. Stop by the shop (online or in-person) or sign up for Concierge by DCanter and we’ll help you find a Chardonnay to fit your taste.