California Chardonnay is known for its toasty richness and creaminess. While the toasty richness tends to come from time in oak barrels, the creaminess can typically be attributed to a secondary fermentation (malolactic fermentation) that often trades crisp acidity for a buttery creaminess.
There is a new breed of Chardonnay in California now and it is catching on – one without oak or malolactic fermentation. These Chards often do not appeal to fans of richer styled Cali Chards as they can lack the weight and creaminess they are used to. One recently tasted blew me away as the perfect compromise for buttery oak fans and non-fans alike.
Big Vine Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2009 $14.99
Fermented only in stainless steel, no oak and no malolactic fermentation. I expected this wine to be light on its feet, zippy and fresh. Instead I got a mouthful of beautiful, rich, ripe fruit with a creamy texture and balanced by an unexpected weight from earthy minerality. The bright acidity added the exclamation point. There was even a hint of smokiness that led me to question whether there was oak. There is not. Just an amazing wine at a great price. I’m not going to try and figure this one out. I’m just going to enjoy it!