A Pleasant Chardonnay Surprise

Chardonnay has such a curious status, if you think about it: running the gamut from some of the world’s most-sought-after whites, like high-end white Burgundies, to some of the most ridiculed, like overly oaked California Chardonnays, which are now chic to hate. So it was fun, recently, to find two reasonably priced new-world Chardonnays—both from overseas ventures owned by the Jackson family, of Kendall-Jackson—and to like them a lot. Each was a smooth, well balanced wine, without the food antipathy of excessively oaked versions. The first comes from Yangarra Estate Vineyard, in the sandy soils and slight elevation of Australia’s McLaren Vale, south of Adelaide, and well south of Barossa; McLaren Vale is better known for Grenache (in fact I very much liked Yangarra’s Cadenzia, a Grenache blend), and doesn’t have much Chardonnay. But this one works. The other is from Calina Reserva, and is not an estate wine, meaning the fruit is bought on contract from other growers. But the Casablanca Valley is one of the best for Chilean Chardonnay, and like McLaren Vale, there’s a cooling coastal influence.

2007 Yangarra McLaren Vale Single Vineyard Chardonnay

Grapes: 100 percent Chardonnay
Aging: Stainless (and they mean it, apparently—it’s on the label)
Alcohol: 13.5 percent
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
My Tasting Notes: Nothing extreme or exotic, just a very accomplished wine with a nice balance of acid and Chardonnay softness.

2007 Calina Reserva Chardonnay Valle de Casablanca Chile
Grapes: 100 percent Chardonnay
Aging: 9 months in used French and American barrels (2 to 5 years, mostly for viscosity)
Alcohol: 13.5 percent
Price: $8.99
My Tasting Notes: This one just struck me as a very good value. Seventy percent of the wine goes through malolactic fermentation, which I think of as a de-acidifying fermentation—and you can taste it in the creamy, rich quality.