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Chardonnay for Skeptics

Chardonnay can get a bad rap. Perhaps partly because wine lists are often full of over-oaked monsters. To each their own, but I find many Chardonnays akin to wearing one of those blow-up sumo suits and expecting someone to recognize you. Chardonnay is a grape that sucks up the land’s mineral character like a Dyson cleaner, so when a winemaker allows a Chardonnay to show its true colours, it can be truly exhilarating.

To experience world-class Chardonnay, one must look to Burgundy, France. Often heralded as the best whites in the world, Burgundian Chardonnays can be everything from crisp and bone dry to rich and complex. Some of my favorites are from the region of Chablis, the coolest part of Burgundy, which produces wines with the thrilling combination of scintillating crispness and complex minerality that I've seen make even the most devout “ABC”-er (Anything but Chardonnay) go weak at the knees.

Herve Azo Petit Chablis 2020 ($25) is from the Chablis sub-region “Petit Chablis,” which is even higher up the slopes, and is known for its clear, mineral style due to the extremely rocky vineyards and colder climate. ‘Little’ does not denote a wine of lesser quality and especially as climate warms, these cooler areas are really coming into their own. Our friends at Azo have once again pulled off a superb wine this vintage. It has that tart lime zest and freshness, with a wonderful center of fleshy lemon that makes me want to roast a chicken with some lemon and fresh herbs on the spot.

Another of my favorites Chardonnay regions is the Jura, a small mountainous region in France about 3.5 hours east of Chablis. It's even cooler here, and the grapes ripen later, often not being picked until late October or November. The wines are wild and untamed like the region, and so exciting to drink.

Domaine Courbet Chardonnay de la Vallée 2019($33) is a wonderful wine with tinges of apricots, kumquat peel, and a lovely roundness from the marl and limestone, which I find so beguiling. Sip it with some of the famous Comte cheese, slices of tart apple, and a chunk of baguette. Simple, but just fabulous.

Finally, if you’re looking for something red this week, we found a wonderful Gamay from the region of Touraine in the Loire Valley, France.

Domaine Sauvete Touraine Les Gravouilles 2020($24) is just phenomenal, with bright red fruit notes and lots of ripe brambles. Whole cluster fermentation brings out a beautiful perfumed nose. Drink it slightly chilled with spicy sausages, pork or lamb.

Well, I am off to heat up some beef goulash and watch more of the Olympics. Who knew Curling could be so exhilarating! Got to hand it to the Scotts for inventing a game using rocks and frozen Lochs that makes it to the Olympics!

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