Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Chardonnay Wars

Can't we all just get along? Maybe not, based on what I read over at Avenue Vine. Seems that the oaked chardonnay people and the unoaked chardonnay enthusiasts are at each other's palates, er, throats, now and then.

The problem is one generated mostly by sanctimonious wine columnists and authors who try to make their mark with overly extracted language and tannic opinions. Have to admit fans of well-oaked chardonnays have taken a beating at the hands of some of these guys.

Even wineries themselves can come on strong. Marketing to one group unintentionally can come at the expense of the other. Oak-free chardonnay? Sounds like it's on a par with MSG-free Chinese food, sulfite-free wine and hormone-free beef. Must be better for you, right?

Well, oak-aged chardonnay fans sometimes have to explode. And, I don't blame them. I'm not a huge fan of those really big California chardonnays that are delivered to your palate on a boat of oak. I do like one now and then for sipping with friends because they do create quite an impression. But the most beautiful, balanced expression of the grape is, in my opinion, white Burgundy, and we all know the vast majority are aged in French oak.

The oak-free chardonnays do often present an interesting and enjoyable alternative taste, usually built around pleasant green apple aromas. But chardonnay is never more delicious than when artfully married with French oak in the hands of a true master.

People just need more balance in their lives and white Burgundy has it. But, if that isn't enough to quiet the restless masses, I've noticed that more and more wineries I'm visiting out here in the East are offering both an oak-aged and a stainless-aged chardonnay -- something to please every taste. I know the same is true of California and other wine-producing areas.

So what's all the shouting about? Has there ever been a better time to enjoy a good chardonnay, whatever its pedigree?


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