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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Understanding Chardonnay

Visitors to the California wine country are more confused about Chardonnay that any other variety. Except for those who gasp when discovering Zinfandel is red.

The problem rests with what you see on the store shelf at home. You know, the oaky, buttery Chards. I won't name names, but the initials might be KJ. Why did this happen to poor Chardonnay? Well, if you don't make it right in the first place the fruit tastes kinda crappy. As it turns out Chardonnay grapes don't really have much flavor so you want to add some with French oak barrels, lots of malolactic fermentation (you might have to look that up), and leave in some residual sugar. Voila! You have the perfect drink for your mom and her friends. And for 22 year old Caucasian females.
Yes, they are drinking Chardonnay!

You have to wonder why Chardonnay became the number one selling wine if the grapes aren't really all that good. You have to wonder why every winery has to make a Chardonnay. Maybe because it's a cash cow. Maybe because the French do. Maybe to attract the 22 year old females.

Chardonnay has been called California Cougar Juice. Sometimes you can even find a female named Chardonnay (I guess Mercedes sounded too hoity-toity). When you're number one in sales you get no respect, just like McDonald's. If you think about it Chardonnay is kind of like McDonald's in that you always know what you're getting and it won't be very good.

A few years ago California winemakers were getting yelled at by the wine critics for making lousy Merlot so they quit making it rather than try to make good Merlot. More recently they were getting yelled at for their oaky, buttery, sweet Chardonnay. So some started making "naked" Chardonnay. Cute name. Too bad it tastes like Grenache Blanc. If you've never had Grenache Blanc count yourself lucky.

Q: What are the best uses for Chardonnay?
A. To attract young females
B.  To attract middle-aged females looking for younger men
C. Sparkling wine 

So what are your alternatives to California Chardonnay?

Viognier
Why drink it - California winemakers try to make it like CA Chardonnay so you won't have to get used to something new.
Why you shouldn't - Nobody can pronounce it. Goddamn French, who gave them the naming rights?

Chenin Blanc
Why drink it - "Everybody" would like to see Chenin Blanc return to popularity.
Why you shouldn't - Nobody drank it when it was available. There's probably a reason.

Grenache Blanc
Why drink it - No reason
Why you shouldn't - I already told you

Gewurztraminer or Riesling
Why drink it - The cheap stuff will put hair on your chest. Granted, this isn't a positive for everybody.
Why you shouldn't - The Germans tried to take over the world. You want to reward them for that?

Sauvignon Blanc
Why drink it - It's cheap
Why you shouldn't - You know what it smells like when you wake up in the morning and find out the cat has peed on the carpet?
 
Pinot Gris
Why drink it - If you don't really like wine, but prefer sweetened ice tea or Diet Pepsi.
Why you shouldn't - It tastes like watered down cat pee--I mean Sauvignon Blanc.

Red wine
This is, of course, your best alternative.