Every time I shop I observe folks standing in the wine aisle, struggling over which wine brand to choose. I eavesdrop on their phone conversation, or on their inner dialogue. It goes something like this:

“Hi. I’m at the market. Which Chardonnay should I get? The one with the critter on it is on sale but it’s not very good. The one we usually get is $30 and I would like to stay under $20. What should I try?”

Notable Wines, a new wine brand from global wine conglomerate Constellation, has debuted two Chardonnays with flavor/style descriptions and eye-catching illustrations on the label to simplify the selection process. The releases include a “Fruity & Crisp” Chardonnay from Australia, and an “Oaky & Buttery” Chardonnay from California, both well-priced at $14.99.

The timing is great for something like this in retail – many wine lists are already using style categories – but it’s especially helpful as we get into the warm summer months.

In celebration of Chardonnay Day (#ChardonnayDay) on Thursday, May 25, we reviewed the new wine brand on our wine review platform, Planet Grape Wine Review, and gave these wines the thumbs up:

2016 Notable “Fruity & Crisp” Chardonnay Australia

Crisp, dry and bright with notes of apple, pear, peach, mango and lemon zest.

wine brand

89 points 13.5%, 750 ml, $14.99

2015 Notable “Oaky & Buttery” Chardonnay California USA

Mellow and mid-weight with notes of candied peach, dried apricot, buttered baguette and sweet cream.

wine brand

88 points 13.5%, 750 ml, $14.99

If you would like to learn more about Chardonnay, continue on to our varietal profile below.

Pronunciation

grape goddess says:
“shardanay”- repeat after me – “shardanay.”

So popular, so beloved, and as comforting as mom’s apple pie, Chardonnay’s charms are many. America is the greatest #Chardonnation on earth. Would you believe that 558 bottles of Chardonnay are sold per minute in the U.S.?

Profile

Believed to be of Middle Eastern origin, Chardonnay is the world’s most popular white wine grape. Chardonnay is made in a wide range of styles, with Burgundy, France as its benchmark, where the region, not the grape, gives the wine its name.

In the last 50 years or so, plantings in Australia, New Zealand, and North and South America have given this grape a high profile. Thanks in part to its popularity, producers in every corner of the globe are jumping on the bandwagon. Even in Greece, where the indigenous grapes are unique, plentiful and full of local flavor, Chardonnay is produced. However, it is more for the locals to consume so they don’t buy imports!

Style/Taste

On its own, this grape is shy with notes of citrus, apple and pear. From light, crisp and tart to full-bodied, opulent and ripe, one common denominator is (geek alert!) malolactic conversion.

Malolactic conversion transforms tart malic to softer lactic acid (think green apple to milk) making the wine creamy and buttery. Barrel fermentation and aging gives vanilla and toasty notes. Both processes deliver qualities many expect from Chardonnay. However, the market is now crowded with unoaked versions, which are growing in popularity as they are lighter and crisper.

Most experts agree the ultimate expression of Chardonnay’s potential is in Burgundy, France. White Burgundy ranges from a light, crisp Macon to a steely, energetic Chablis, to a nutty Meursault and on to a very rich, layered, opulent and complex Montrachet.

Wines from the Maconnais in Southern Burgundy offer excellent value. Known as Macon and Macon-Villages (from villages that have vineyards just slightly better for growing and ripening Chardonnay), these are typically light and crisp with little oak, little butter and a pleasant chalky minerality (as in a high mineral count sparkling water – think Badoit or Gerosteiner).

Blanc de Blancs Champagne from France, made exclusively with Chardonnay, is breathtaking in its purity, delicacy and creaminess.

Food Pairing

Chardonnay with Food

Lighter, crisper Chardonnays pair well with shellfish and delicate fish dishes, while riper, bolder Chardonnays taste delicious with lobster, crab and chicken. Keep in mind that wine making adds flavors like vanilla or coconut and butter, so the more of that there is, the more limited or precisely targeted the pairing would be. A bridge from a buttery chardonnay to a buttery crab leg is one way to up your pairing game – dance from wine to bite and back seamlessly.

Here are some classic pairings:

  • Blanc de Blanc Champagne with Caviar
  • Chablis with Oysters
  • Montrachet with Truffle-studded Poulet de Bresse
  • Macon-Villages with Sole Meuniere
  • Sonoma Chardonnay with Sea Scallops and Chanterelles
  • South Australia Chardonnay with fresh cracked crab and drawn butter

But let’s face it. Chardonnay in America is truly a cocktail, and a very rich and satisfying one at that. Napa Valley wine brand Rombauer sells 100,000 cases a year of what is considered the quintessential California Chardonnay. It tastes like a pina colada, and that is what makes it so popular. Rombauer also produces a serious line up of vineyard specific Chardonnays that show off their origin more than style but hardly anyone knows about those.

For more information, reviews, articles, and to learn more about the world’s fifth female Master Sommelier, visit the Planet Grape Wine Review.

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About The Author

Catherine Fallis

Nationally known wine expert Catherine Fallis (“FAH lis”), the 5th woman in the world to become a Master Sommelier, is a warm, engaging author, speaker, and wine advisor through her firm Planet Grape® LLC - www.planetgrape.com and Tasting Panel Lead/Publisher at Planet Grape Wine Review – www.winereview.planetgrape.com. Catherine created her alter-ego, grape goddess®, to help bring wine down to earth after enduring snobbism on her path to a career in wine. She is the only person in the world to hold both the Master Sommelier and Advanced Certified Wine Professional credentials, and is a professional Champagne sabreuse, using her sword to open Champagne with panache and flair. Catherine was recently inducted into Les Dames d’Escoffier International and is a Board Member of The American Institute of Wine & Food. She is the in-house Master Sommelier for Global Gourmet Catering, and a wine buyer for Universal Wine Alliance. As an author, she has 77,000 unique readers.