How to Choose the Right Chardonnay for You
Written by Missa Capozzo, Director of Sommology on December 21, 2017
If you’ve tried one Chardonnay, you’ve tried them all, right? Chardo-NO! The truth is, Chardonnay can vary from label to label. Let’s explore the wide world of Chardonnay by taking a closer look at three unique Traveling Vineyard Chardonnays through the eyes of our Director of Sommology, Missa Capozzo. You’ll learn how to choose the right Chardonnay for you!
Steeple Street Chardonnay paired with shrimp and lobster. Photo Credit: Jen George.
Chardonnay is a very versatile grape, and the growing conditions and winemaking techniques used with this varietal can make extremely varied wines—still from the same grape. Our three current Chardonnay offerings are a perfect example.
2014 Zeffer Hills Chardonnay from California is a lightly oaked Chardonnay that has undergone malolactic fermentation, which results in a buttery, creamy quality to the resulting wine. Zeffer Hills also spent time on the lees, a process that is common with Chardonnays and Champagnes and lends a brioche, bready quality to the wine. The time spent in oak gives a lovely vanilla, nutty flavor. The resulting wine is beautifully balanced, elegant and soft.
Our 2016 Steeple Street Chardonnay, also from California, is made in a completely different style. Steeple Street sees no oak and is fermented and aged entirely in stainless steel. This allows the resulting wine to remain crisp, vibrant and refreshing. You will find bright, lively notes of green apple and pear.
Finally, our 2016 Peekaboo Chardonnay from South Eastern Australia was aged on the lees, which lends a creamy mouthfeel, but this wine did not undergo malolactic fermentation like our Zeffer Hills Chardonnay. Peekaboo was fermented and aged in stainless steel with inner oak staves, which has given this wine a somewhat smoky quality. This is a beautiful alternative to the American oaked Chardonnays we might be used to and more familiar with.
What are some key elements to consider when tasting a Chardonnay?
The region the grapes have grown in, as well as the winemaking techniques are key when it comes to experiencing a Chardonnay. Chardonnay grapes grown in a cool climate will display more flavors of apple and pear, whereas those grown in warmer climates will show more tropical fruits, citrus, pineapple, peach and melon. Each Chardonnay you taste will be unique depending on how the winemaker decided they wanted the final product to taste. Relatively neutral on its own, the Chardonnay grape can display a variety of different flavors and qualities solely depending on the winemaker’s intentions.
Our top pairing with buttery Zeffer Hills Chardonnay, California? Buttered popcorn. Photo credit: Kisha Dlugos.
What are the differences that influence food pairing when it comes to our three Chardonnays?
The three different winemaking techniques for each of our Chardonnays result in different flavors, aromas and mouthfeel. These differences can impact how you will want to pair these wines. In my experience, the best food pairings for our current three Chardonnays are quite varied. Zeffer Hills is the perfect pair with buttered popcorn, while Steeple Street is the best choice for bacon-wrapped shrimp or scallops. Peekaboo partners deliciously with banana bread!
Even though the winemaking techniques are different, these three wines are still 100% Chardonnay, and Chardonnay grapes tend to produce medium- to full-bodied wines with natural acidity, making them all incredibly food-friendly.
If you’re a Chardonnay lover, we recommend tasting and pairing an array of Chardonnays to help you discover your personal palate, which will make buying the right Chardonnay a snap!
Want more wine wisdom? Stop by our YouTube channel for more insider tips from our Director of Sommology and her video series “Ask Missa.” Subscribe to never miss a sip!