Monday, August 30, 2010

August A Tale of Two Cities (ATTC): Chardonnay

The world of wine is more vast and complex than I could have ever imagined. There is always something to learn, a new varietal, new blend, new AVA, DOC, just have to know that you will be on a continuous learning process. In a quest to continue my wine education with an in-depth study of varietals, I decided to take one varietal from 2 different countries and do a comparative tasting. I know, I know...genius!!

Starting things off basic, and with what I already had on hand, the first head-to-head varietal is Chardonnay. Chardonnay is probably the most widely planted grape on the planet and also the most versatile. As stated in Wine Enthusiast Magazine, "It’s not easy to know what any bottle labeled Chardonnay will taste like. Will it be steely and crisp, loaded with green apples and lemony citrus? Will it be fleshy and fruity—a bowl of stone fruits, tropical fruits, bubble gum? Will it taste like buttered popcorn? Toast and coffee? Ancient sea life soaked in chalk? In truth, Chardonnay can be any and all of the above. "

Perfect! I grabbed my fellow tasting partner and Venture Brothers fan, Brock Wino, to taste along with me as he has the nose of a a good way :-) Chile vs. California, let the tasting begin!

Chile (Los Vascos) -- Pale lemon/yellow in color and very vegetal in aroma. Crisp notes of citrus, herbs, and a hint of minerality were also found on the nose. After a the swirl, sniff, and sip, fruit flavors of apple and lemon coated the palate. Tart with pretty high acidity but the surprise was the creamy, soft finish.

California (J Lohr) -- The color is a big difference already, this was a much more golden yellow. Now this is a 'typical' CA Chardonnay, oak and smoke and tobacco were all I smelled at first sniff. After letting it sit in the glass for a bit, I got a little bruised red apple. Flavor mimicked the aroma, more oak and bark with hints of apple. A twist though, a slightly nutty finish. I felt like there was less acidity but more alcohol in this style, yet Brock Wino thought they were about the same. Perhaps the oak barrel fermentation and aging had a lot to do with that.

Extreme differences in visual appearance, aroma, and flavor profiles of these two wines. Same grape, two continents, why the difference? I initially thought climate, but after further research, both are from cool climate regions. Guess the winemaker 'intervention' made all the difference here. 'Typical' California Chardonnay is known for being oaky and buttery, and this one was no different. Malolactic fermentation took place for 4 months and the wine was aged sur lie in a 50% French oak barrel. In English: this Chardonnay will exhibit notes of apple and yeast from the malolactic and butter and oak from the barrel aging. Unfortunately I could not find much information on the winemaking techniques of the Los Vascos so I'll just assume stainless steel fermentation (by its taste).

So there you have it folks! I'm not going to say which one I enjoyed more...they were both good wines in their own way. But if you aren't a fan of the oakier style of Chardonnay, the California one is not for you.

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