Your Grandfather's Chardonnay
Aug 7, 2017
Kevin Marshaus

It’s August, and the dog days of summer demand a fresh, fruity, crisp white wine. However, cooler weather is ahead and a versatile choice would be nice for the transition to fall. A decade ago there was a wave of new “un-oaked” Chardonnays from around the world, primarily Australia. Upon tasting, many of us were saying, “Wow! That’s Chardonnay?!” Accustomed to the heavily oak influenced styles that were mass marketed at the time, we had all but given up on Chardonnay. This style of production may have seemed like a new idea, but its benchmark had come from the Mâconnais (MAAH kohn NEH), part of Burgundy, France, ages earlier.

Burgundy is the home of Chardonnay, and the renowned wines of the Côte D’Or (coht dohr) set the standard for the barrel-fermented styles worldwide. Burgundy’s other Chardonnay based wines — the crisp, tart, fresh Chablis (shah BLEE) and those of the Côte Chalonnaise, (along with the Mâconnais), are best known for their extremely delicate use of oak. This is not to say that no wine ever touches a barrel, but that judicious use of barrels or “neutral” barrels and vats which have been used enough times that they impart no oak flavor on the finished wine are implemented. A continental climate and a long, cool growing season enhance their vibrant acidity, making them excellent choices with dinner or as cocktail wines anytime.

Named after the city of Mâcon, this sub-region produces more white wine than any other area in France, over 40 million bottles annually! Mâcon-Villages (MAAH kohn VEE lahzj) can be a blend of wines from up to 26 villages approved for production — one of which (are you ready?) is Chardonnay! While this village can’t be traced as the origin of the varietal, the fact that Burgundy is the home of Chardonnay makes one wonder! 

If a Mâconnais wine comes completely from one of these 26 villages it can be labeled solely by the name of the village itself, along with 11 others not in the villages classification like the highly regarded bargain Saint-Véran (SAHN veh RAHN). The most prestigious village appellation in the Mâconnais, however, has for generations been Pouilly Fuisse (PWEE FWEE seh), the hallmark wine of the region.

Available locally (retail $11-$20) are:

Louis Jadot Mâcon-Villages 2015 —Green apple and lemon-lime aromas lead into crisp flavors of Granny Smith apple with hints of grapefruit and lemon grass. Jadot always delivers quality, and this refresher doesn’t disappoint!

Mâcon Lugny “Les Charmes” 2014 —Mineral aromas with apple and pear lead into crisp apple-pear flavors showing hints of lime and tangerine with a lingering chalky finish. A perennial bargain!

Joseph Drouhin Saint-Véran 2014 —Creamy apple and pear aromas lead into silky, rich yet delicate flavors of the same highlighted by flinty mineral notes and a bouquet of citrus. Beautifully integrated, and elegant, this is one of the world’s best Chardonnay values, always delivering excellence.

Grandpa possibly never heard of Chardonnay, but he probably drank these more than once! Cheers!

IMG Insurance Management Group

Related Stories