Our monthly virtual tasting event turns three today with founder Lenn Thompson from LENNDEVOURS again hosting. Lenn’s theme of “Naked” Chardonnay is perfect for this time of year when the heat of summer has us drinking more fruity white wines. But Chardonnay is most often found with some oak aging so finding a non-oaked wine takes a bit of investigation although some producers are labeling their wines as “unwooded”, “no-oak” or even “naked.”
Chardonnay is a delicate grape that is easily dominated by other varietals through blending or, more often, with the addition of French oak. Mostly identified with the great white wines from France’s Burgundy region, Chardonnay can be made in a number of styles depending upon the techniques used by the winemaker. If they are looking for a soft, buttery style, malolactic fermentation (a.k.a. “ML”) is used. For creaminess in the mid-palate and finish, lees aging is done. And to add toast, vanilla and a bit more complexity in the aromatics, barrel fermentation and/or oak aging is added. The default style in California Chardonnay is oaked — some say too heavily — but things are changing in this regard.
My personal preference in Chardonnay is a light touch of oak or no oak at all. My favorites come from France’s Chablis area when fruit, minerality and acidity are center stage and oak is most often in the background or not used at all. So I immediately thought of Chablis when Lenn announced this theme but didn’t have a chance to visit some of the Twin Cities’ urban wine stores to buy a bottle. The wine selected here was chosen from the very few in stock that seemed to be unoaked from their label description and I confirmed this by visiting the winery website where oak is not mentioned in any of the marketing materials. If you are using expensive oak barrels, or even chips, in your Chardonnay you will mention this in the winemaker notes. And the aroma and flavor profile here is consistent with a stainless-only approach.
Hess Collection, Chardonnay, Monterey 2005 ($11) – This 100% Chardonnay features grapes grown in the cooler Monterey AVA in California. The color is a very pale straw with with a tinge of green. Lean citrus and pear aromas with a hint of nuttiness. Simple pear and pineapple flavors finishing clean and soft. An easy drinking quaffer and good value.
Synthetic cork closure
Thanks once again to Lenn for three great years of Wine Blogging Wednesday. I’m sure we will see a lot of great values this time out and a good turnout given the availability of un-oaked Chardonnay these days. Let’s hope this style becomes a trend in the broader market.