Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Cut that umbilical cord! | June 15, 2009

This post is in response to this Wall Street Journal article posted by @kevinzraly on Twitter. Aren’t on Twitter? Give in to the peer pressure and follow me here

Like an old, reliable baseball cap that you can always go to when your hair is just not styling the way you want (see right), all too often, I see white wine drinkers opt for the warm, familiar beanbag-chair-of-wines that is Chardonnay. One of the most widely planted varieties in the world (second only to Airén, a Spanish white grape), Chardonnay has also flourished in myriad climates, from the brutal heat and drought of Australia to the rather cool climate of Champagne, France. For its adaptability, there’s no doubt why it became so popular in California; and it’s Burgundian pedigree no doubt armed it with marketability-galore…like that kid back in high school who had little going for him but always got the Hypercolor t-shirts. Man, I wanted to hang out with that kid and his fancy-schmancy shirt.

Yeah, my mom made my clothes. I had homemade Jams. Wanna fight about it?! Just don’t rip my clothes. It took mom a long time to make them.

The point I’m trying to make is that Chardonnay, of itself, is a pretty boring grape. It doesn’t have a crazy flavor profile. Its acidity tanks in warm climates, creating what wine-nerds call a “flabby” wine, and what food nerds call a “terrible wine to go with food” (as acidity generally heightens the flavors of foods and cuts through richness. Ask an Italian. He’ll break down the food/wine importance thing).

“But Joe,” you say, “I’m not gonna take wine advice from a guy in homemade clothes. Anyway, I’ve had some AMAZING Chardonnays from Chablis, Mersault, and all them Montrachets in France.” Indeed. This is true. Why? Because where Chardonnay really shines (aside from the fact that it will grow anywhere) is that is a blank canvas for a great winemaker to show his art (and enough with the clothes). Does the wine get aged in oak, creating vanilla and butterscotch flavors and aromas? Is it American oak or French oak? What forest did the French oak come from? Will the barrel be new or used? How much will the barrel be toasted? Will the winemaker encourage malolactic fermentation, which causes the tart, apply malic acid in the wine to change to silky, buttery lactic acid, creating a creamy mouthfeel? Will the winemaker employ batonnage, or stirring the lees to add more flavors?

Listen: you get the idea. And in the hands of a great winemaker, Chardonnay can be inspired and, uh, bitchin’ (sorry, thought this post was getting too high-brow). But, as the WSJ article bolstered, too many wineries are taking bad grapes, manipulating them with so much oak to hide that bad flavor, and shipping them out to our unsuspecting gullets. And, all the while, tons of INCREDIBLE white wines are sitting on the shelf, like the totally hot nerdy girl in all those 80’s movies who was one makeover away from Prom Queen, but the captain of the football team couldn’t see it. You saw it, though. And you could’ve probably hooked that up, because she was a nerd, too. Bet she dug guys with unhealthy obsessions with viticulture and food science. …and dinosaurs. Amazing dinosaurs.
When was the last time you had Sauvignon Blanc? Riesling? Pinot Gris? Gewurztraminer? Viognier? Torrontés? THESE ARE ALL WHITE GRAPES! There are a bunch more, too! Go try one. You might be surprised how good they are. And, if you’re a creature of habit and unwilling to stray, at least give California a break and try something from Chablis, Mâcon-Villages (a great value), or splurge a little more and try something from Mersault for around $40.
Just get out there and try something new! You won’t regret it. And even if you don’t like it, what have you got to lose? Fifteen, twenty bucks? You could save some much more than that by having mom make your clothes.
Let me know about your adventures! Tell me what you tried and if you liked it!
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