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- RenieSot - 03-25-1999 01:21 PM

Help- I am opn the lookout for a reasonably priced nice smooth buttery chardonnay. I used to enjioy Jekel 1996, but the 1997 is much for grassy and young than its predecessor.

Any suggestions?


- Van The Man - 03-27-1999 09:18 AM

RenieSot -

I can not answer the question specifically, but I can give you an explanation on where the "buttery" flavor comes from. If you have a good retailer that can answer questions on how the wine was made, you may be able to find what you're looking for.

The buttery flavor you are looking for is the result of a secondary fermentation called "malolactic" fermentation. It's the addition of a bacteria (as opposed to a true yeast fermentation) which converts the malic acid in a wine to lactic acid and is not really a fermentation at all. If you ever go to a winery when they are crushing chardonnay grapes, you'll notice the place smells like a big apple crush, especially in cooler climates. That's the malic acid you're smelling.

California Chards and Aussie Chards are often able to get that big buttery taste because the fruit is often big, ripe and lower in many acids. Then, when put through the malolactic fermentation (or ML for short) they take on a buttery, creamy taste.

ML is a process that has been around for centuries and is practiced world wide on many wines. It seemed as though the California vintners were going crazy with it through the early and mid 90s to the point they were making wines which were really out of balance. There seems to be a push to get back to making wines that relect the natural flavor of the grapes now which means finding that buttery flavor may become a bit more challenging.

If you can find the Liberty School Chardonnay, you may find that wine to be to your liking. Also, there's an Australian Chard (and I can't remember the producer to save my life right now) that actually markets the wine as "malo" or "malo-oak" or something. A good retailer will carry it as I see it everywhere.

Hope that helps.

Van


- Jason - 03-27-1999 07:59 PM

Liberty Chard has not been made in years that
I know of. Try Penfold Koonunga Hill Chard or Lindemans Padthaway. One would never confuse either of these for Chablis.


- Van The Man - 03-28-1999 09:12 AM

>>Try Penfold Koonunga Hill Chard or Lindemans Padthaway. One would never confuse either of these for Chablis. <<

LOL!

You can say that again! Good one! <g>


- vitis - 03-29-1999 07:54 AM

For big, buttery, oaky Chardonnay try Meridian, Estancia, Lockwood, or Edna Valley.
Australia also is great for this style, as Van and Jason suggested. Try Lindemans Bin 65 or Black Opal. The compound which produces the buttery consistency is known as diaceteal sp?, it is a bi-product of malolactic.


- sfelicia - 03-30-1999 02:18 PM

If you haven't tried "Fess Parker's Res. Chard. 97', it is outstanding.
Rich and full with plenty of buttery notes.

Also I love "La Crema Chard. Sonoma".
Very consistant and always winner.

Has anyone else tried these wonderful wines?

Thanks, Felicia Smith


- sfelicia - 03-30-1999 02:19 PM

If you haven't tried "Fess Parker's Res. Chard. 97', it is outstanding.
Rich and full with plenty of buttery notes.

Also I love "La Crema Chard. Sonoma".
Very consistant and always a winner.

Has anyone else tried these wonderful wines?

Thanks, Felicia Smith


- Randy Caparoso - 03-31-1999 10:26 PM

At the risk of sounding geeky, I'll throw in my two cents about "butter" in Chard. As vitis says, it's definitely diacetyl, a natural byproduct of the malo-lactic fermentation process. What's also known is that when ML is induced or allowed to occur naturally without the full benefit of "battonage" -- regular stirring of the "lees" (or spent yeasts) in the barrel, an action that tends to absorb the ML produced diacetyl -- you're likely to end up with excessive amounts of diacetyl. That's why you'll see virtually no true "buttery" California Chards these days (unlike 10-20 years ago) -- Californians have gotten a lot smarter about this (I remember the old Liberty Schools as tasting more like buttered popcorn than Chard!).

What you do find, however, are richly oaked Chards with very round, smooth, viscous, even fleshy textures -- very flattering to the palate. The Fess Parker Chards (both the "regular" and "Reserve") are very much like this, and even better known are those of Edna Valley, Chalone, and Kistler. La Crema Chards typically have very creamy textures (but not quite buttery) punctuated by crisp fruit tones, and are much more moderate in toasty/smoky oak qualities than the Fess Parker, Edna Valley or Kistler.

Some of the toasty "smoke of oak" styles, of course, are a lot better than others. If you can handle the price ranges (generally $18 and up), in my opinion -- and that of the Wine Spectator's, by sheer coincidence -- one of the very best practicioners of this full-on natural yeast/ML/battonage/unfiltered styles of Chardonnay is Chalk Hill. Great, great stuff. Saintsbury has also recently come to excel in this style; so has Swanson and Simi (especially their "Reserve"). Particularly outstanding are the smoky, lusciously textured Chards of wineries for whom Helen Turley has consulted -- the Landmark "Overlook" and J. Fritz "Dutton Ranch" being near-perfect examples. Then in Santa Cruz, Storrs Winery does a wonderfully consistent job of turning out completely natural, handcrafted, sumptuously layered Chards.

One of the most influential winemakers in this style has been David Ramey; formerly of Chalk Hill and Matanzas Creek, but who has recently come out with a stunningly opulent, richly toasted and concentrated Chard under his own label (very rare, and retailing in the stratospheres).

Getting back down to earth, in the $12 and under category, the closest you can probably get to this viscous, round style is the Casa Lapostolle from Chile, Cypress by J. Lohr from Monterey, and the Rosemount "Diamond" -- although the Cypress and Rosemount are actually more honeyed/tropical-fruity in flavor, and "buttery" only in texture. In the medium range, ($14-$16), the Rosemount "Orange Vineyard" and Rosemount "Giant's Creek" are well worth seeking out.

And this should be enough to get any Fabio style Chard lover ("I cawn't believe it's not...") started.