Next up in our comparisons of wines from around the world was the noble grape Chardonnay. Often referred to as a winemaker's grape due to its relative ease of growing, as well as its ability to be manipulated using tools such as malolactic fermentation and degrees of oak aging.
While there were some negative and unusual descriptions of these wines initially, we generally agreed that they all improved with time in the glass, as well as when they all came to a similar temperature.
Without knowing the identity of the wines, we voted for a 60% Garganega blend from Italy as the first place bottle, showing great balance to the upfront fruit and acidity. It was also a fantastic value for about $10. Unfortunately, it didn't qualify.
Interestingly, three of the wines were directly labeled as having no oak influence, and one (the Chablis) likely did not either.
Thanks to Mark & JC for their opinions.
First Place: Errazuriz Chardonnay Wild Ferment 2010 (Casablanca Valley). Tasters found scents of leather, shoe polish, vanilla, smoke, and burning ember. Rich and creamy in the mouth, with red apple and cinnamon flavors. Soft finish, showing lingering burnt marshmallow notes. Mark and JC both voted for this as their top wine. Received 23 points. JC's bottle. About $20.
Second Place: St. Supéry Chardonnay Oak Free 2011 (Napa Valley). Bubble gum, parsley, oregano, and scallions on the nose. Mark felt that it "smells like the inside of the vacuum to me". Fresh green bean, varnish, cantaloupe, and tropical fruit flavors. Ali noted "urine", and David felt that it "starts off OK, but turns weird". Later reveals melon flavors that were enjoyable. Andy's favorite of the night. Received 22 points. Andy's bottle. About $20.
Third Place: Kim Crawford Chardonnay Unoaked 2010 (Marlborough). Andy noted that it was "bashful, like pavement after the rain", and David said that it "smells like an empty glass". Mark was reminded of a "wide open meadow" on the nose, but in the mouth he felt that "it tastes like providence water". David decided that it was "just this side of insipid". Gains steam on the finish, with lime and grass flavors that opens up with time. David noted that it was "good with the feta". Received 8 points. David's bottle. About $16.
Wishing Tree Chardonnay Unoaked 2009 (Western Australia). Skunky aromatics that reminded Andy of "sweaty hand with lots of rings". Mark found "road in the summertime". Apple flavors that David felt were "kind of flabby", and Andy felt that it "asks too much of your tongue". Some cream notes later. Received 5 points. Ali's bottle. About $11.
Simonnet-Febvre Chablis 2009. Goat cheese (or is it brie?), with a sunny character that also includes figs and raw almonds. Mark noted "dirty underwear", while JC found "old Louis Vuitton trunk". Apple and wax flavors that were made worse with food. Andy decided that it was "confused". Received 1 point. Kristin's bottle. About $16.
Sant' Antonio Scaia Garganega/Chardonnay 2010 (Veneto). Disqualified when revealed, but tasted blind this was the night's winner. Mark noted that it smells oily, with notions of chives, onion, and tangerine. Ali found "spent Joy" scents, while Andy noted "a weird combination of lights and darks". David felt that it was "inviting". Pleasing flavors of mango, passion fruit, and green apple. Mark felt that it "has a bite to it". Dark spices and peaches on the finish. David enjoyed the balance of exotic fruit and acidity. Made from 60% Garganega and 40% Chardonnay. David, Kristin, and Ali gave this the most points before being disqualified, with a total of 25 points from everyone. Mark's bottle. About $10.
Le Cuvier Late Harvest Zinfandel 2006 (Paso Robles). With nearly 18% alcohol, this was a big wine, with aromas reminiscent of licorice, cherries, and flowers. Sweet dark fruit (prunes, dried cherries), but also dark chocolate.