<strong>Hooray for Chardonnay!

The high yield grape adds a sparkle to many wines

Published on June 17, 2014

The Flavourful Truro Daily News Wine Tasting Panel recently tasted the 2012 Sterling Vintner’s Collection Chardonnay. It is produced by Sterling Vineyards and comes from Sonoma, California. It is made from 98 per cent Chardonnay grapes.

The Grapevine by Al Bégin

The Chardonnay grape is one of the most widely planted grape varieties in the whole world. It is the largest selling wine in the United States, red or white.


Pronounced “shar-doe-nay,” it is grown in almost every grape-growing region in the world as it is an easy type to cultivate in varying climates. Producing high yields, there are now some Nova Scotia wineries releasing Chardonnay wines.


The Chardonnay grape does not have a lot of character on its own, so it initially found its popularity with excessive oak barreling. It was almost as though there was a contest between various winemakers as to who could infuse more oak into their Chardonnay.  This trend peaked in California in the 1980s and early 1990s.


Few people want to feel like they are chewing on an oak plank while drinking their wine.  I did have a good chuckle when the sommelier on our wine appreciation course stated, while we were sampling a heavily oaked wine, “Boy, they really put the lumber to this one!”


A second trend around that same time period was to put the Chardonnay grapes through a malolactic fermentation (MLF) to bring out a creamy, buttery texture in the wines.  Malolactic fermentation is a second fermentation that transforms the tart malic acid in a wine into a smoother lactic acid. 



The heavily oaked, high alcohol content Chardonnay wines of the 1980s and 1990s were met with a backlash from the ABC (Anything-But-Chardonnay) movement. It was also a backlash against the (properly held) belief that vineyards were yanking out different varieties of grapes and replanting with Chardonnay – seen by many as the globalization of wine. As well, it was a backlash against the dominance of Chardonnay on store shelves and restaurant wine lists to the exclusion of many other fine wines.


The ABC backlash is over, although you do still meet people that have an irrational aversion to Chardonnay. It is quite likely that those people with an entrenched aversion to Chardonnay wines were subjected to the overly oaked Chardonnays, and have not had the wonderful experience of tasting the buttery smooth Chardonnays that have undergone MLF. MLF Chardonnays can also be oaked, but it is not the predominant taste in the wine.


An interesting historical point is that it was not just the Cabernets that triumphed at the 1976 Judgement of Paris. A California Chardonnay also triumphed over a Burgundy Chardonnay.


The Chardonnay grape is a key ingredient in many sparkling wines.


The ability to transform the Chardonnay grape into so many different types of wines has some people referring to it as a winemaker’s grape.


Chardonnay is also known by the names of Chablis, Pouilly Fuissé, Mersault and White Burgundy. Pinot Blanc is not to be confused with Chardonnay.


The recommended serving temperature is 48F for an unoaked Chardonnay, and 54F for an oaked Chardonnay.


An oaked Chardonnay wine would pair well with chicken dishes and white meats. An unoaked Chardonnay would pair well with pork, veal and spicy foods..


Handy wine App


For our loyal readers with smartphones there is a wonderful wine App that you should consider. It is called Vivino and there is a free version that is very useful in quickly checking out bottles of wine. All you have to do is take a photo of the label and the App will give you a score for the bottle of wine. 


This App is very helpful when you are trying to decide between different, unknown bottles in the wine store. And, it will be far less embarrassing than doing the old “eeny-meeny-miny-moe” elimination routine in front of the store staff to pick the wine you will be taking home.


A new Nova Scotia Winery


Planters Ridge is the newest winery in Nova Scotia. It is located near Port Williams and will be having its grand opening on June 27. The winery is clearly doing something right as they will have a Tidal Bay wine released this year.

Further information can be obtained from their website www.plantersridge.ca.



In our Vineyard


We are very relieved that Old Man Winter was not as harsh as he could have been. With the vines starting to grow we are seeing multiple flower clusters, which will turn into grape bunches. It appears as though the severe colds that we had mid-spring did not damage our vines. That gives us a huge sigh of relief.


Wine Review


The Flavourful Truro Daily News Wine Tasting Panel recently tasted the 2012 Sterling Vintner’s Collection Chardonnay. It is produced by Sterling Vineyards and comes from Sonoma, California. 


It is made from 98 per cent Chardonnay grapes.


It is available from the NSLC for only $14.99. Again, your devoted Tasting Panel has exerted great efforts on your behalf to find nice wines at affordable prices.    


The wine has a nice nose of melon, citrus and honey. 


It tastes of citrus (lemon and lime), light oak, vanilla and butterscotch.


This wine has the balance between oaky and buttery. It is lightly toasted (oaked) and still has a smooth fullness. 


Planters Ridge will initially be releasing 6 wines. The Flavourful Tasting Panel rated this wine 4.62 out of 6 wines.  


Al Bégin is the chief oak barrel cleaner for the Flavourful Truro Daily News Wine Tasting Panel, and you can send your wine questions, or recommendations, to him at tdngrapevine@gmail.com.