Sunday, June 14, 2009

Two Chardonnays on the Table

There are two Chardonnays sitting side by side on my table, and two wines could not be more different in color, aroma, flavor and texture. They appeal to two opposing tastes in wine, and that's why they are both sitting on the same table.

The 1998 Gilbert Picq Chablis Vieilles Vignes is seven years older than the 2005 Edna Valley Vineyards Edna Valley Paragon Vineyard Chardonnay, but the difference in color is not one of maturity. They are probably equally developed in terms of maturity, but the Chablis has greener tints, probably because of its higher acidity. From the Chablis comes scents and flavors of flint, minerals, lemon/grapefruit and sea salt. Its alcohol content is only 12% (versus 13.9% for the Edna Valley Chardonnay), but it fills the mouth with power and substance. There are earthy qualities; this is real Chablis--aged in stainless steel and with no adornments added by the winemaker. Impressive depth and fruit concentration. The Edna Valley Chardonnay is much lighter on its feet and offers scents and flavors of white peaches, lime, very ripe pears, vanilla and butter--pleasantly sweet. In contrast to the raw power of the Chablis, this wine has a rich, creamy texture. Acidity is low, and this New World Chardonnay is probably more advanced on the maturity curve than the 11-year-old Chablis. It needs drinking over the next year whereas the Chablis might be even better in a couple of years.

They are both good wines, and the major differences are 1) acidity and 2) wine-making style. The majority of American wine drinkers, if given the choice, would probably choose the California Chardonnay because of its plump, approachable level of acidity and the adornment provided by barrel fermentation, malolactic fermentation and 90% new oak aging . As you might guess, I am strongly partial to the Chablis but keep plenty of the other wine on hand to serve guests...and for times when I am too tired to listen to what the Chablis is trying to say.

Ordinarily selling for about $15/bottle, the 2007 Edna Valley Chardonnay is available right now at D&W Parkview in Kalamazoo for $7.99 with a $15 mail-in rebate for purchase of six bottles.

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