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Ahhh, Those Versatile Chardonnays

Posted on: November 9th, 2010 by Tom Peiffer No Comments

Ahhh, Those Versatile ChardonnaysMost of us will agree that wines made from the Chardonnay grape are the most popular whites on the market.  Nearly every wine growing region in the world offers them and they are quite affordable.  However, in addition to the standard geographic and vintage variations, a commonly used fermentation method (Malolactic Fermentation) makes for a lot of different flavors.  Depending on the process, these wines can be bitingly acidic (green apples), seductively fruity (peaches and pears), or buttery mellow (Crème Brulee).

Unfortunately, it‘s the extreme flavor variations that can make buying the right Chardonnays difficult.  The best way to decide:  Start with the food.  What cuisine is going to be served with the wine?  Most white wines go well with seafood, but with Chardonnays, the type of seafood can really make a difference on your pick.

For example, consider the variation in flavor between trout with tartar sauce and king crab legs with drawn butter.  Select the appropriate Chardonnay and you’re really going to enjoy dinner!

Let’s take the trout with tartar sauce first, a popular light seafood choice.  The trout has a very delicate flavor to which the tartar sauce adds a mildly-spiced, savory/oily component.  The best Chardonnays to combine with this are ones that have a higher acid level that balances the food by “cutting through the sauce”.  The remaining flavor of the trout is then left to complement the wine.  For this, a Chardonnay that has a bright acid base is best.  Try Foley’s “Steel”, or for a low-cost alternative, La Crema Chardonnay, both of which exhibit a very crisp body.

For crab legs with drawn butter, an “oaky” Chardonnay not only compliments the butter, but a well-balanced brand with some acidity offsets the oiliness.  These Chardonnays are the “Classic California” flavor that we remember as the norm during the 80’s and 90’s.  Many winemakers have since changed their fermentation techniques to be more acidic (they say un-oaked), so it is now harder to find wines that go well with king crab.  But, there are still many available.  One if the best for the money is Frank Family’s Chardonnay.  It is a California standard.

Serve the wine chilled from the fridge and be sure to notice how the bouquet and flavor of the wine change as your glass gradually warms toward room temperature during the meal.

Written by Tom Peiffer, Phoenix Wine Shopping Examiner at

View more of Tom’s articles on by visiting his writer’s page.

About the Author - Tom Peiffer

Tom has been an avid wine consumer and collector for over 20 years. This pastime has taken he and his family on many visits to wine growing regions, including Arizona. During these excursions, with the accompanying tastings and lectures, it became clear that there is no "magic bullet" wine. For each wine contains its own character, strong points, and weaknesses. Sharing these experiences to help anyone purchase locally available wines is his goal.

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