A Conversation With Chardonnay
Posted on November 7, 2014
Chardonnay. The “Jack-of-all-trades” white wine. Both foreign and domestic, she is the friend that has a place at every table. Though, historically she isn’t the life of the party, she IS the Grande Dame, the great orchestrator. The omnipotent one.
We took a moment and sat down with this legend for a one-on-one. She arrived, slightly chilled as is her fashion, and with an earthy, oakiness about her. Think- the aunt that is both off-kilter and yet, oh-so-cool. Artfully disheveled but somehow very put together and business-like. All in the best possible way.
GG: Hi, Chard. May we call you “chard”?
Chardonnay: No, dahling. Chardonnay will be fine. Sometimes I feel formal and seeing as though we are not yet TRULY acquainted, the saving of nicknames seems most apropos. Let us whet our whistles first, no?
She is both bright and subdued, with an accent that is familiarly unfamiliar. Something that lingers on the tongue as she rolls around the vowels in her mouth. She’s dry, yes, but there’s something else… she is somehow buttery.
GG: How is the vine treating you these days?
Chardonnay: Busy. So busy, dahling. I do not know if you have heard, but I am rich these days. Very rich. My face, my taste, my essence. Just everywhere, dahling. It’s criminal!
And we have heard. Chardonnay’s low-maintenance style has translated into high crop yields worldwide. In California alone, Chardonnay is the most planted wine grape- boasting about 100,000 acres planted each year. The result? Mass production of this white grape’s fermented fruit at more affordable price points than that of the fussier grapes. And if fancy is your thing, there is truly a Chardonnay for everyone.
Her eyes sparkle with a mischief that makes the outsider wonder, “How dry is she?”
GG: So it’s safe to assume that lunch is on you?
Chardonnay: Never ON me dahling, that sounds coy. Save that for the Pinots who like to play peek-a-boo. My approach is much more direct. You dine WITH me.
Wow. Is that acidity we sense? Maybe a little. She waves her arm. The scent of apples for an instant and then gone. In its stead, food. Glorious food. From the cheeses- Brie and Jarlsburg to turkey, pork, salmon, and beyond- Chardonnay offers us pairing after pairing.
GG: How’s the fam? Bourgogne Blanc, Chablis, Champagne?
She pauses for a moment, a far away look appears. She sighs. For an instant we see the little grape on a vine, separated from the rest of the bunch. It is fleeting. She suddenly regains her composure and it’s back to business.
Chardonnay: Well, from what I can see. Though, you would never know that we are relations.
This just got interesting. Who doesn’t love a little behind-the-scenes family drama?
GG: Sorry to hear that Chardonnay. How so? Aren’t you all originally from Burgundy (a region of France)?
Chardonnay: So the stories say. However, little Chablis has become bitter and steely from being in my shadow. She covets my pears, my melons. She resents me since SHE doesn’t provide a “fruity” experience.
GG: And what about the others, Bourgogne…
Chardonnay: Bourgogne Blanc? (scoff) If you mean Mr. White Burgundy, he’s another that forgets his roots. He forgets that I MADE him. Without me, he’s just another Welch’s.
GG: And Champagne?
Another dismissive wave.
Chardonnay: She lives in a bubble. Newsflash, dahling: Whether you abide by it or not, they’re calling it Champagne EVERYWHERE- not just in your little vanity region.
Burn. This Chardonnay. She’s more aggressive than initially expected. We aim for damage control.
GG: And who needs ’em?! Can we get an “Amen”?
Chardonnay: A who?
GG: You know…. like, “Holla”…
GG: How about those grapes?
Chardonnay: They’re lovely, dahling. Simply lovely. Literally every winery and country has a Chardonnay now- it’s delicious!
She leans in and whispers. More apple. This time with a touch of something stony, flint-like.
Chardonnay: There is some controversy, however, between what we call the “New World” Chardonnays and the older, more traditional wines.
We love gossip.
Chardonnay: Apparently, some feel that I have become too oaky and cloying- almost dessert like. “They” want Chardonnays to lighten it on the barrels and make it about what I naturally possess, my fruit and my earthiness.
*Sidenote: Historically, Chardonnay is aged in oaken barrels. Thankfully we researched this before our meeting. Duh.
GG: Who are “they” and what is the response to their complaint?
Chardonnay: I don’t want to spread rumors, dear. Winemakers are LISTENING, dahling, that’s the interesting thing. It’s like a wine revolution. Now we have “naked” versions of Chardonnay that are much more crisp. Take Chile, for example- they’re celebrating my fruit and minerality, they’re playing with my acidity. Oh those South Americans and the things they can do with a vineyard…
She lustily trails off. We’ve never seen this side of her before. A “naked” Chardonnay? We COULD say that we wouldn’t look, but we hear she’s had EXCELLENT work done. As if reading our thoughts, she replies,
Chardonnay: Yes, dear. A naked Chardonnay. Naked, Un-wooded, virgin. Just me as I am and I am FABULOUS!
As we are beginning to understand, Chardonnay. Indeed you very well may be…
Her whistle fully “whetted”, we leave Chardonnay (as is her custom), neck down and empty in a bucket of ice- spirited away by a strapping, young man in a jacket and tie; a broad who knows how to make an entrance and an exit. We giggle. We sigh. We reflect. Oh, Chardonnay. Like a DVF wrap dress or a Chanel suit, you constantly prove that however reinvented you become, classic never goes out of style.