Having finally left my concentration on roses, I've been focused on American chardonnays in recent days. Heavens, there are so many -- and so many styles. I'll be summarizing my findings in a future column, but for now let's just say it has been an adventure.
Historically, chardonnays have gone through a number of trends. There were those oaky chardonnays that gave you splinters, then those creamy chardonnays that reminded you of pudding. While producers have moderated their use of new oak and some have even made oak-free chardonnays, many of today's versions still cling to the buttery texture.
No matter how much chardonnays are abused and dismissed, they remain the number one selling varietal in the U.S. Sales represent more than 13 percent of the market -- a percent higher than cabernet sauvignon. Female drinkers drive the market.
I'm unapologetic about liking chardonnay. The grape accounts for greatness in Burgundy. In Chablis, the minerally and cerebral chardonnays of producers such as Dauvissat are extraordinary. I'll pass on Australia for most chardonnay, but in California producers focused on this grape variety are doing incredible work. Ramey, for instance, makes a number of chardonnays that range from restrained to concentrated.
Unoaked chardonnays complement food better because the palate doesn't have to deal with aggressive oak flavors and a buttery texture that conflicts with a delicate sauce or a simple fish dish.
Don't give up on chardonnay because your friends think it's feminine or too common. It has a role at the table just as much as any other wine.