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The Case for Oaky Chardonnay

April 12th, 2022 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

The “Anything but Chardonnay” (ABC), movement was a direct response to the late 20th century rise of “showy”, over oaked, high alcohol Chardonnays. Writing in the Wine Enthusiast blog, Matt Kettmann reports: “Two decades later, the ABC sentiment is alive and well, even though the prevailing style today, at least for the wines I review from California’s Central Coast, is tight and racy, driven by fresh citrus flavors and chalky textures. I spend a lot of my time educating the “Anything Buts” about the zippy wonders of these “new” vibrant Chardonnays. Though many express doubts at first, my conversion rate is happily high. All Chardonnay needn’t be made the same, and there remains a seat at my table for rich, oaky Chardonnay, which is still plentiful. To me, their butter scotch drizzled, seared marshmallow, honeysuckle-laden flavors are the embodiment of comfort in your cup. Few white wines go as well with a roaring fire as snow falls outside, or to complement both soft and hard cheeses before or after dinner, or as an accompaniment to roasted chicken: such succulent, herb-infused flesh never knew a better beverage buddy than nutty, caramelized Chardonnay.”

Matt goes on to explain that: “A combination of all the above: richness at the core, fresh on the edges and minerally taut on the frame with an umami kick, is arguably the best formula for Chardonnay, no matter where it’s grown. In fact, some of the richest Chards I’ve ever had come from Burgundy, albeit with the region’s hallmark minerality and acidity in tow.”

Kettmann continues: “There’s also something to say about the wisdom of the crowd. Even more common than the “Anything but Chardonnay” crowd are those lifelong fans of opulently oaked Chardonnay, who proudly proclaim their affinity for benchmark brands such as Rombauer. So, as much as we wine “experts” thrive on discovering the next styles and under the-radar producers, there’s solace to be found in the stability of classic styles like oaky Chardonnay. Nothing comes closer to sipping warm rays of sunshine.”

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