Contributors, Terry Sweeney, Wine|June 7, 2012 5:25 am

Fifty shades of chardonnay

By Terry Sweeney
Since the mid-1970’s, chardonnay has been the wine that has dominated the female wine scene. There was something about that vanilla oak woody flavor that kept women coming back for more.  Offer a gentleman a chardonnay and he’d look at you like you just asked him “would he like to try on a pair of panty-hose?” “Bourbon!” he’d bellow back in his deepest baritone or at the very least, “A Big Bold California cab!”
It’s a fact. Chardonnay scares men.  Just the word itself is inherently light and feminine. It’s as though you wouldn’t be surprised if someone called out “Chardonnay!” and a toy apricot poodle with a rhinestone collar came scampering in.
But with women around the world, chardonnay still racks up some of the biggest wine sales. In Northern Burgundy, chardonnay is what makes chablis and white burgundy. It is the key player in the world of Champagne (another female favorite) and there isn’t a Blanc de Blanc who’s primary white grapes are not chardonnay grapes. But over the years, chardonnay did get a little rough around the edges — too many oak chips floating around a tropical fruit latrine that even the flies wouldn’t touch. That was always the problem with chardonnay — a one night stand with a cheap bottle of this oaked-up old  grape mess  and you wouldn’t come back. Poor old mass-produced chardonnay had gotten tired and boring.
But heck, times have changed and so has chardonnay. Chardonnay is sexy again. She’s lost the granny panties and the oak and bought herself a string bikini! OK, maybe she doesn’t come in 50 shades, more like five: pale yellow-green, straw-yellow, yellow-gold, gold, and old-gold.  But I guarantee you will find a boundless array of fruit essences and aromas that will excite your palette anew. Thanks to new stainless steel fermentation tanks, and a new crop of innovative growers and winemakers, chardonnay is kicking some serious wine butt.
So go on, go back to chardonnay and take a second look. It’s spanking new and hey, try it with a few ice cubes and even your husband might be seduced into taking a manly sip.
Here are my three new favorites under $20:
• Joel Gott 2009 Unoaked Chardonnay (Monterrey), $16.
• Chamisal 2010 Stainless Unoaked Chardonnay (Central Coast), $18.
• Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay (Marlborough New Zealand), $13.99.
Cheers!

Wine Dinner at Plums: Join me at Plums for the Fourth Annual Locally Grown Wine Dinner on Tuesday, June 12, celebrating local farmers and the South Carolina Sustainable Seafood Initiative. $55 per person plus tax and gratuity. RSVP to Plums@hargray.com or call 986-5092. Let’s eat and drink ourselves silly while supporting local farmers and the local seafood industry!

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