There are reasons why chardonnay is the most popular wine in the United States and the world, why it has so many detractors who dislike this or that style of chardonnay, and why it pops up so often in review columns such as this one.
Simply put, chardonnay grows in many terroirs, its flavors are closer to neutral than to floral flamboyance, it makes well-balanced wines that usually don’t need the addition of other varieties, and it allows winemakers to easily add their own imprint on it in their cellars.
Here are five stylistically different chardonnays from around the world recently tasted:
2010 Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain chardonnay ($32): A big and firm, yet buttery chardonnay, it has some mineral notes to underpin its typically apple-like flavors. Its finish is overly constricting, however, causing a tightness of the throat when swallowing.
2013 Los Vascos Colchagua Valley chardonnay ($10): From the Rothschild property in Chile, this is in the elegant chardonnay style with apple flavors in the beginning and lemon in the finish. That finish, however, could be a bit crisper as the wine appears a tad sweet.
2012 Waterstone Carneros chardonnay ($18): A pleasant wine, it will appeal to those who grew up drinking the somewhat sweet Kendall Jackson chards. It has creamy apple flavors with a well-balanced finish.
2012 Sequoia Grove Napa Valley chardonnay ($23): This creamy, rich, full, lightly oaked chardonnay is a mouthful, more of a voluptuous wine than an elegant one. Complex, but it could use a bit more structure and definition.
2012 Hardys “William Hardy” South Australia chardonnay ($17). My Pick of the Litter: Nice, clean, herbal — as close to being a sauvignon blanc (is there some in there?) as chardonnay will get. Fruity, tart-apple flavors with a lean finish, this would be a versatile lunchtime wine.