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Mike Steinberger's Wine Diarist


WBW #36 - Naked Chard

For three years now, an adventuresome and growing group of wine bloggers have been conducting monthly virtual wine tastings. The idea, thought up by Lenn Thompson of Lenndevours, is very simple - invite bloggers to weigh in monthly on a tasting theme or topic. Each participating blog posts tasting comments on a predetermined Wednesday, and all the postings are summarized by the month's host (a rotating job). I have been a regular reader and observer of this activity (and even participated once via my wife's blog).

This month's theme is "Naked Chardonnay." That is to say, Chardonnay, which has become synonymous with well (or not so well)-oaked wine, in this case is vinified without the oak. While the classic chardonnays of Burgundy's Cote d'Or are typically made with oak, they tend to remain balanced with both decent amounts of both acidity and minerality (though, you'd never call them "racy"), imitators and homage-payers from throughout much of the rest of wine world seem to think "well, if they use oak in Burgundy, we probably should too!" But not ALL of Burgundy uses oak on their whites. Wines from the Chablis/Yonne region to the north, and Maconnais to the south, can often be found sans oak. Vinified in steel, glass, or cement, these wines may not be as fleshy or lush as their oaked counterparts, but they can often be everything from simply refreshing to downright generous on mineral front.

I recently had a chance to taste a great little 2005 VdP 'Oc Chardonnay from France's Languedoc-Roussillon. It was produced by Domaine L'Herbe Sainte, a samll family-owned property growing a whole range of varieties, and making two Chardonnays (one with oak and one without). The Greuzard family, was originally from Burgundy, but when land and production costs grew too high, they relocated (as so many others have done) to the more affordable, lower profile region of Languedoc-Roussillon, planting their vines to an almost impossibly stony patch of land. Prior to their grapes being planted, the only things that grew ther were wild herbs (hence the name). The wine is intense, with deep golden orange and fresh peach flavors, finishing with a mineral crispness. Although I tasted it on its own, I would love to serve it alongside some top notch shellfish. Worth a revisit (if only it were imported - I tasted a sample bottle looking for an importer).