A new wave of American Chardonnay is killing it right now
Chardonnay is a fantastic grape, but I stress to think of a grape that has stirred up as much debate as Chardonnay has. You have your folks who love Chardonnay, who devote their life to it, and on the other side you have the ABC crowd, the "Anything But Chardonnay" crowd. There are two schools of thought on Chardonnay. The French "Chablis" style that inspires crisp, minerally, citrusy Chardonnay, and the Californian oaked, buttery, creamy Chardonnay. Both schools have their lovers and haters thanks to people taking both schools to the extreme. It drives people nuts and delivers lifeless, overproduced wine. Lucky for us there is a new wave of American Chardonnay that has just the right balance, and this new wave is absolutely killing it right now.
So what makes this new wave of American Chardonnay so great?
Well lets first be honest about why most American Chardonnay inspires hatred amongts the ABC crowd. When Chardonnay is aged in oak barrels it takes on some creamy, buttery, butterscotch-y flavors. Problem is, these flavors have more to do with the oak than the grape and when overdone we lose alot of what is awesome about Chardonnay. The crisp, bite-y, citrusy zing you get in wines like Chablis, gets lost. People raged about it, but then a counter movement ensued to produce brighter, crisper versions of the wine. They ended up making knock offs of the French wine by harvesting early, and lost a lot of the character that made American Chardonnay worth celebrating. We went too far, tried to come back, and went too far the other way. Whoops!
Now a new wave of American Chardonnay is cropping up to be quintessentially Californian. It is a celebration of both Chardonnay and what the California sun and environment does for the grape. How do they do it? A lot of wineries are harvesting their Chardonnay grapes in two waves. A first wave of early harvesting allows the grape's zing to come through followed by a later second harvest that brings forward for tropical flavors. Others will wait till they deem the timing just right to get a natural balance of the two, making sure the grapes are rip but not overripe.
So is new wave Chardonnay a good thing?
For Chardonnay lovers and the ABC haters alike, this new wave of Chardonnay is killing it. We get a much more refined wine that pleases everybody. These wines do so much more than just tick a bunch of boxes though, they are exciting! They also have a great sense of luxury and craftsmanship that you just dont get with the steely no frills Chablis imposters or the over oaked buttery monstrosities. The new wave of American Chardonnay is more like a tailored suit rather than a pair of jeans or something off the rack you get at a Jos A. Bank. No, these wines are more John Varvatos than anything and if there is one downside its that they carry a much higher price than other white wines.
Do we still love this new wave of American Chardonnay?
Yes we do! No matter what your outlook on life there is always room to appreciate something well made, and made with devout care. Okay, we might have to stretch ourselves a little bit to enjoy these wines, but it is so worth it. You get the experience of true quality and luxury, not just and expensive label slapped on whatever. These wines feel like they have been tailored to fit your tastebuds.