Its National Chardonnay Day…or Weekend…or Something. Either way we are celebrating it.
Chardonnay is America’s best selling wine and the most widely planted grape in the world – and yet -- the wine snobs love to hate.
It’s much like how many people feel about Taylor Swift.
You can hate that skinny thing as much you want but we’ll bet good money you still hum her songs all day. Same goes for chardonnay. Wine pros can slam it all darn day, but second the sun comes out or they put a piece of fish on the grill, they’re going to pour it.
So chardonnay has a lot in common with #taytay.
1. To start, it’s the pop star -- of wines.
Chardonnay is the world’s most famous white-wine grape. It’s one of the most requested restaurant wines. Probably because it goes with just about every appetizer, as well as your chicken and fish. And it’s just so super easy to drink.
And while you can act like a mega-star and spend $4,000 on a bottle, you don’t need to. There tons of great bottles available for around $20 and you can find them anywhere, which is a big reason it gets so much fanfare.
And speaking of “pop star,” don’t forget champagne. A Blanc de blancs, which means white from white, is a champagne is made from 100% chardonnay grapes.
Yet another reason why it’s a superstar.
2. But the haters gonna hate.
No surprise, the ride to fame can be bumpy. Much like Kanye West went overboard at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009, the wine snobs have done the same with chardonnay.
Chardonnay is grown all over the world, although its home is Burgundy, France, which is in the central part of the country, slightly to the east. It’s referred to as white burgundy there so you might not see “chardonnay” on the label, even though that’s what it is.
The grape grows beautifully in Burgundy, a.k.a. Bourgogne, thanks to the climate and the land. French chardonnay winemakers are known for their dry, crisp and almost zesty wines. And there, the wine is mostly unoaked. That means its generally aged in steel, concrete or more neutral oak that doesn’t have a flavor that would influence the wine.
So you’ll often get a more “steely” taste in a white burgundy.
But back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, winemakers -- mostly outside of France -- started to age chardonnay in oak barrels. The oak gives the chardonnay that creamy, buttery taste, maybe even with a little bit of vanilla.
This process was fine at first, but many winemakers got carried away. Whether it was in an effort to camouflage bad wine or the genuine belief that the consumer really enjoyed a uber buttery chardonnay, the wine snobs thought it was blasphemous because it wasn’t in the Burgundy style and dubbed those New World wines butter bombs.
And never in their wildest dreams did they expect those buttery chardonnays to take off. But they did.
Still, many winemakers have laid off the “butter” and are making their chardonnays in the historical Burgundy style. But hey – if you like a glass of liquid butter – go for it.
3. Say what you want, it’s still America’s Sweetheart.
Much like Swift, who recently became the first woman on Billboard's Hot 100 56-year history to replace herself at the number one spot, chardonnay still has about 20% of all wine sales according to Nielsen. That’s the highest of all varietals.
Now while much of the bad blood from wine pros is dissipating, we don’t really care what they think. We love it. Whether it’s a lemony chardonnay from the Chablis region of Burgundy or a buttery bottle from Napa Valley, we’ll drink them all.
So pour a glass and be a #swiftie.
And if you need a few suggestions, here are a few thanks to our friends at Gary’s Wine & Marketplace, in Wayne , NJ:
Jaeger-Defaix Rully Les Cloux Premier Cru 2013 ($23) Burgundy, France. Great value, medium-bodied with a touch of lemon and pear.
Laroche Chablis St Martin 2014 ($20) Chablis, France. Stainless steel fermented so its crisp and powerful.
Cambria Katherine's Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 ($15), Santa Maria Valley, CA. Tons of fruit from mango to lemon with great texture and acidity.
Pierre Legras Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut ($35), Champagne, France. Tastes of apple and honey with a minerality at the finish.
And as always, let us know your favorite!
Tracy Byrnes, former FOX Business Network anchor and host of “Wine with Me” for Foxnews.com, is editor-in-chief and chief contributor of The Sip.