Chardonnays don’t have to come from California

in Wine by

By Celia Strong

There are Chardonnays and there are Chardonnays. All of us have tried our share of them. And, hopefully, we’ve learned some of the different styles that are available and which style or styles we prefer.

Unfortunately, if all we ever try is California Chardonnay, we can easily end up with an incomplete view of what these wines are like, which is what happened with a friend recently.

Chardonnays were not their favorite white wine because they had only ever tasted certain California styles. One taste of a French Chardonnay, though, and bingo! Now they like Chardonnay.

Over our many lessons, we’ve become familiar with ways of describing some of the different styles of Chardonnay wines: oaked and unoaked,  New World and Old World, barrel-fermented and stainless steel-tank fermented, tropical fruity and austere minerality.

The range of differences is huge. Some of the best are truly “in the middle,” which takes us to our wine for this week, a Mâcon-Villages.

Mâcon-Villages is an appellation from the southern end of the Burgundy region in eastern France. There are 26 communes in the Mâcon area that can supply grapes for wines labeled Mâcon-Villages. All these wines are white. Legally. (There are some red wines made here, but they have another appellation.)

Mâcon-Villages wines are pale yellow-gold in color. When young, they have a hint of silvery green highlights. Their aromas and flavors include honeysuckle, white roses, clean straw, ferns, verbena, lemongrass, grapefruits and tangerines, pine, quince and fennel.

Further, these wines have well balanced fruitiness and acidity and complexities. They are also able to age for several years. (Oops, sorry. I know we don’t do that very often.)

Our Mâcon-Villages is from Joseph Drouhin, who founded his company in 1880.

He came from the town of Chablis, located at the very northern tip of the Burgundy region, but chose the city of Beaune, further south in the Côte d’Or part of the region, as the home for his company.

Over the years, his company acquired some very good parcels of land and a reputation for excellence and high standards in grape growing and winemaking.

The company was always run by a family member, and their land holdings and reputations both grew.

Maison Drouhin, as the company is known, adopted biological and biodynamic practices. They are popular now, but the Drouhins chose these practices because they helped make the best wines.

Their house style, for all their wines – red and white, very expensive and everyday priced – combines balance, harmony and character.

Their Mâcon-Villages is 100 percent Chardonnay.

Most of the grapes for it come from vineyards that are very close to the villages of Pouilly and Fuissé, with clay and chalk soils that date back to the Jurassic era.

Maison Drouhin limits itself to about 2,800 vines per acre and keeps the yields low in order to extract as many nuances as possible from the soil.

After harvest, the grapes are slow pressed and no artificial yeasts or enzymes are used. The wine is aged in stainless steel for six to eight months with its lees.

This wine is always fresh and bright and clean. It has fruity aromas, floral notes and a zing of freshness. It’s not your everyday California Chardonnay. But it could be your everyday French Chardonnay. Makin’ Chardonnay. For $15.99. Enjoy.