Some would consider my not covering Chardonnay first heresy–I say it made just plain good sense. Chardonnay is something a lot of people drink because they recognize the name, not because they necessarily like it. It’s on every wine list and every hotel and restaurant has their house white which is probably 9 times out of 10 a Chardonnay.
That said, there’s a reason it’s so popular to begin with. Chardonnay has a lot going for it in a fresh, crisp way with a strong combination of flavors from lemon and apple to melon and pineapple. It’s often described as having a buttery texture from the malolactic fermentation.
And then there’s the oak.
I usually steer clear of Chardonnay because I dislike tasting the barrel it was aged in. Of course, not all Chardonnay’s are heavy on the oak, but so many run of the mill ones are (despite the rise in oak barrel costs–some use oak chips, instead) that it’sturned me off in general. That said, Chardonnay’s bossier flavors do work well in many menu situations.
Chardonnay is still suited towards fish, chicken and vegetables (which is why, so I’ve read, it became so ubiquitous in California during the health-crazed 80s), but not being a shy violet it can stand up to richer, spicier foods and buttery sauces. You could even pair it with a nice veal and be perfectly content.
Unlike the last two whites (Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc) which were best enjoyed within a year of purchase, a Chardonnay from a reputable winery can be aged 3 to 8 years and still be wonderful to drink. Of course, this doesn’t mean sitting it on the rack in your kitchen where the temperature fluctuates wildly. Not that you have to build your own cellar (though I suppose you could), but investing in a good wine cooler would be a sure-fired way to keep your investment from turning into vinegar.