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Get Stuffed - Warm days, cool chardonnays

The old favourite makes a new wave comeback


I know everyone is drinking red, but do you really think a tannic cabernet and oysters is the way to go? Merlot and a Cobb salad doesn’t do it for me, nor does halibut and shiraz. Yet everywhere I look, consumers are drinking red wine with just about anything.

Just because the rest of the world has gone mad over red wine doesn’t mean you have to drink your favourite chardonnay in the closet. With summer and warmer weather on the way, white wine is the answer to keeping cool and who knows, maybe by drinking what others aren’t, you could become a trendsetter.

No doubt the red wine pendulum will swing back into the white zone soon enough, but why wait? White wine is cooler than ever and the perfect chardonnay, maybe with a screwcap, could make you look like a Whistler wine whiz in short order.

Oh sure, the trade types are always mumbling about the ABC or "anything but chardonnay" wines, and riesling is deservedly gaining renewed respect along with viognier and grüner veltliner. But it’s the new crisp, fresh, cool-climate, less-oaked chardonnays that are about to bring this white wine back to prime time.

For the unaware, we simply know so much more today about growing white wine grapes and turning then into wine than we did less than 20 years ago. In fact, most chardonnay made in the 1980s looks almost prehistoric alongside anything bottled today.

World-wide, chardonnay grapes have been pushed to the coolest, most marginal vineyard sites (in terms of weather). There, acidity and fruit are intensified long before the grape gets to the winery. With few exceptions, the grapes hang longer and in cooler conditions, delivering more intensely flavoured chardonnay fruit and more vibrant, mouth-watering acidity than ever before.

In short, chardonnay is fresher, crisper and more fun to drink, especially in tandem with the right food.

To illustrate just how broad a selection you can draw upon right now, I’ve selected 10 very different bottles available in restaurants, private wine shops and/or government liquor stores in your neighbourhood.

Ten Chardonnays you can count on

1. I’m guessing that Sicily doesn’t jump to mind as chardonnay country, but because it’s grown at 200 to 600 feet above sea level, the chardonnay fruit in the Planeta Chardonnay ($51) offers a bright citrus backbone that perfectly balances its guava/honey/crème brûlée and nutty flavours. Planeta Chardonnay is considered to be among the best Italian whites made at the moment due mostly to a renewed interest in serious wine by the dynamic younger generation of the Planeta family, led by Francesca and her brothers, Alessio and Santi. The Italians suggest you pair this wine with mushrooms and truffles, legumes soups and rich-flavoured fish.