It’s time for the next instalment of the Noble Grape Challenge. Last time we dove into the world of Viognier and now it’s time for the final entry, in which we get to know possibly the more versatile grape there is: Chardonnay.
About the Noble Grape Challenge
Let’s refresh ourselves on what’s going on here – Wine Folly created the Noble Grape Challenge as a way to learn the spectrum of flavours and characteristics found in red and white wines. Taking nine reds and nine whites and going through them from lightest to darkest, we’ll learn about the key characteristics and flavours of each.
Let’s start with where Chardonnay is originally from. Are you ready? I’ll give you two guesses, but you’ll only need one.
It might sound shocking to some, but I had no interest in learning about climate until studying wine. Astounding, right??
In short? Climate is everything (well, along with soil). Don’t believe me? Let’s look at Chardonnay and you’ll see what I mean.
The Chameleon Grape
Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world. It also grows well in a large variety of climates, which is part of why it’s so popular.
Put Chard in a cold climate and you get lots of citrus and green fruit. Omit oak treatment or lees contact and it’ll also pick up minerality (flint, chalk, gravel) from the soil it’s grown in. Great examples of cool climate Chardonnays include Chablis and, in my opinion, Ontario.
Put Chard in a warm or hot climate and things change a LOT. Citrus and green fruit give way to stone and tropical fruit. Peach, pineapple, melon and mango are all fair game in a warm weather Chardonnay. There also isn’t as much minerality but there does tend to be more oak treatment, I’m guessing because the wines aren’t as subtle and delicate and can take the stronger flavours that oak imparts. Oak would leave flavours like vanilla, coconut or banana in its wake, further adding to the difference between warm and cool climate Chardonnays.
And all that based on the climate. Makes you wonder how climate affects people…
A few weeks ago my friend Danielle told me about an article she’d seen in the star where the writer offered some wines to re-stock your wine rack for under $100. If I remember correctly, her exact words were “you could do a much better job”. Well, Danielle, thank you for the compliment and challenge accepted!
In the original article the writer offers five wines – one rosé, two whites and two reds. I suppose the rosé snuck in there because the article was published in March and maybe the writer wanted to prime us all for rosé season. But I think rosés are too seasonal and ethereal to go in a list like this, so instead I’m offering you a sherry.
With a theoretical $100 to spend, here is what I would choose.
It’s mid-February and winter weather has finally arrived in my corner of the world. This means we’re all most likely feeling the drag of another cold winter. Since my birthday is during the cold months I feel a personal imperative to love the season but I have to say that even I need some encouragement to make it all the way to spring.
Whether you’re hibernating like whoa, taking outdoor winter activities by storm or, like me, hygge-ing it up huge, here are some beverage recommendations (wine and beer!) that should help see you through to the other side of winter.
This past June I took a trip to California with my aunt and cousin. It was my first trip there (though hopefully not my last) and took us to San Francisco, Napa Valley, Half Moon Bay, Carmel, through Big Sur, and then on to Hearst Castle, Morro Bay, Santa Barbara, Malibu and Hollywood. Whirlwind and whistle-stop would be accurate descriptors for this trip! We drove through the state at such a clip that, unfortunately, pit stops to wineries wasn’t an option.
While I did manage to hit up one winery, my wine experiences during the trip mostly revolved around wines enjoyed at meals, except for the two bottles I brought home – sadly, the maximum allowment by Canadian standards.
I picked up a white wine at a Trader Joe’s in LA and a red wine at an adorable little grocery stop in Yountville in the Napa area. I wanted to bring home the two varietals that California is most known for – Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. These two varietals are what the California wine industry pretty much made their name on, which is why I decided to spend my money on them.
This wine was just what I hoped I’d find in a California Cab. It was sturdy and solid, with some vanilla going on (probably from being aged in oak) and a bit of a punch on the finish. I ended up having it over two evenings, and loved at how soft and mellow it got after being opened for a day.
These wines were both so enjoyable. It’s clear by how much is going on in the glass that California has had the benefit of years of growing grapes and making wine. I’m looking forward to exploring more California wines – if only they weren’t so expensive here in Ontario!
Do you have a favourite California wine? Let me know!
Canadian Thanksgiving was last weekend and, as I usually do on long weekends, I went home to Kingston to visit my family and yes, to drink a lot of wine.
Either because I come with all these food and wine ideas, or because my parents take my visits as an opportunity to indulge, it ended up being a multi-day food and wine affair. Either way, I’m happy!
This year especially I had a lot to be thankful for. It’s been an eventful year, both for my family and for me personally. I’ve struggled to find direction in my career and to feel like I’m making a positive impact on the world around me, which is partially why I started this blog. This year my family has been faced with illness and adversity in a much larger amount than we all wanted or are used to. It’s been a year of struggle but also one of gratitude. Suffice it to say, I now have a fuller appreciation for the good things in life.
My own ongoing personal struggles make it all the more sweeter when I visit home, and the holidays are the epitome of that. For three days I cooked, relaxed, vegged out to real estate shows on tv and enjoyed the company of my family. It was a wonderful respite from regular life.
Of course, wine was also involved – why else would I be talking about it here? Below is a brief recap of some (just some!) of the delicious wines we sampled over the weekend. In addition to all the other things I have to be thankful for this time around, I am also grateful for my stepdad’s generosity in sharing these wines – they all came from his cellar.
Double the pleasure, double the fun!
Graham Beck’s sparkling wine is my stepdad’s favourite, and is quickly becoming mine too. It’s from South Africa, which is really not a place that comes to mind when I think of ‘places that make good sparkling wine’, but I’ve had and loved other wines there so it’s not totally outside the realm of possibility. The wine itself is light and dry, with tiny little bubbles that make the wine float around in your mouth. The flavour is subtle and goes with just about any food you can throw at it. We had it with cheese, baguette and (as if that weren’t indulgent enough) some foie gras mousse made with black truffle. Thanksgiving got off to a great start, you guys.
This label is so Old World.
We had this little gem at the beginning of dinner, with a parsnip, apple and leek soup I made the day before. My stepdad asked me what I thought would go well with the soup and I suggested something that had depth and body, that would stand up to the fullness of the parsnip flavour. He chose this Chardonnay and I think our efforts worked out wonderfully. It’s solid creaminess was a great counterpoint to the earthy sweetness of the soup.
Chateau Malescot St. Exupéry. 25 years old, no big deal.
It’s just a little dusty – it’s still good, it’s still good.
The baby of the red bunch.
After the soup it was on to the main event! We had a veritable feast of turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, mashed turnip with carrot, roasted brussels sprouts, and of course, stuffing and gravy. It doesn’t seem like much now that I’m writing it out but believe me, my belly was FULL.
The two French wines were amazing. They both came from sub regions of Bordeaux (Margaux and Médoc, to be specific) and, as you can see from the labels, had been resting in the cellar for quite some time. I always get a kick out of thinking of how old I was when an older bottle was created. I was still in single digits when these wines came into the world!
Both wines were just lovely. The Potensac had a beautiful ruby colour, a bit of pepper and fruit on the nose and a smooth, slightly peppery and medium-bodied flavour. The Malescot was similarly medium-bodied and so, so smooth, but I tasted a bit of smoke on the finish with this one. Both were a bit mellow (on account of their age) but had retained much of their vim and vigor. It was a huge treat to taste them.
The Chateau Malescot St. Exupéry cork. Good thing we opened it! That wine was slowly but surely making its escape.
The third wine came to us from Napa Valley. It was a Meritage, which is a fancy way of saying it’s a blend of Bordeaux-style wines but isn’t actually from Bordeaux. Long story short, Bordeaux (well, most of France, really) is incredibly protective of their wines and winemaking processes and have barred other regions from making the same kinds of wine and calling it ‘Bordeaux’. This is why you’ll see wines made in North America being called ‘Meritage’.
The Stonehedge was also delicious, but I admit that by that point in the evening the wine and tryptophan had gotten to me – I have no notes from this wine. I do remember that it’s body and flavour was in keeping with the other two reds we’d been drinking, which further proves that my stepdad is no slouch when it comes to wine choices.
In the immortal words of Julia Child, ‘bon appetit!’
A Thanksgiving for the books, I think. How was yours?