09-07-2012

An end to Californian Chardonnay

Photo by Enotourist

It usually starts off innocently enough at a California winery tasting room, “Here, try our Chardonnay.” I shake my head in a vigorous, whiplash-inducing “no” to which the tasting room employee invariably says, “It’s good, not like your typical Chardonnay.” At this point, my mind always says, “Bullshit. You lie. It’s all the same…”, but then I go and taste it anyways only to find that yes, it is yet another over-oaked, brash insult to this otherwise majestic grape.

Now, not everything is as dreadful and tree-filled as Clos du Bois (the selection of yuppies on their homepage perfectly illustrates how I feel about their brand.) Out there, you will encounter the occasional Flowers Chardonnay that I admit to liking a great deal, although I refuse to drop $50 on a bottle in a restaurant. But, between those two there is little else on offer in California that I’ve ever found. And of course, the question must be begged as to why you would bother.

Old World Chardonnays are, in a nutshell, honest. They’re typically aged in stainless steel and you can actually taste the grapes because yes, there is white grapey goodness behind all that barrel you get in a California Chardonnay, but you wouldn’t know it. These Chardonnays you find in Europe, while often young wines, are bright, fruity, tasty, and most all less than 10€. If a European winery were to try and get 30€ for a white wine, its doors would not likely stay open long.

There are however those rare exceptions that are both expensive and oak-aged, but infuriatingly delicious. The prime example of this was a Chardonnay with a touch of Muscat from Mas Romeu, the very last winery to (barely) make it in to our Empordà guide.

Fitó Blanc 2010 has an expressive, floral nose with a hint of violets and raw cane sugar. It’s plush in the mouth with the violet aspect from the nose coming in to play. As it decants, a touch of pear grows as well. The finish brings up a bit of acidity with and a light hint of fresh mint. While it would be easy to pair with many dishes, it’s almost a waste to do so, given that it’s quite impressive all on its own. 13% 18€