There is nothing like beating the odds, or doing what many thought was impossible. The Eagles in the Superbowl or the Cubs in the World Series are the stories people remember. I’m not the big sports fan myself, but when asked which team I’m rooting for I always go for the underdog.
Not too long ago Chardonnay was the “in” grape. It is all people asked for and label after label enjoyed the lion’s share of shelf space. At that time I secretly wished another grape would unseat the champion and considered myself a member of the illusive underground “ABC” group (Anything But Chardonnay). Gruner Veltliner, Viognier, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc were among my heros.
I have noticed recently that Chardonnay has lost its position at the top of the white wine charts, and has been replaced by Sauvignon Blanc, thanks to all the freshness and fragrance of the New Zealand style. Now I find my heartstrings pulled by the fallen giant I used to malign and am digging Chardonnay! It helps that the wines are less oak influenced, and offer more purity of fruit, which ultimately means better balance.
This past week a vendor presented a compelling example of modern Chardonnay style from a longshot location…Southern Italy. The grapes come from vineyards planted on limestone soils at high elevations, which are meticulously cultivated to yield top quality fruit. Fermentation occurs in Stainless steel after which the wine spends several months on the “Lees” in glass lined cement vessels. The resulting wine has impressive character and varietal integrity.
The Rivera Preludio N.1 ($12.90) is 100% Chardonnay and is fast becoming recognized as one of the top wines from Puglia. A must experience for anyone interested in world class wine. Buy it now, before a deservedly high score catches the attention of the numbers hounds, and it’s too late!
A soft market bodes well for price. Take the Thelema Chardonnay 2015 ($17.82) for example, which was up to twenty four bucks a few vintages ago, has settled into an affordable under twenty price point. The wine is 100% estate fruit from South Africa’s famed Stellenbosch region. It is aged in one third French Oak barrels, and like its Burgundian inspiration, has a lovely potential to improve with a few years of bottle age. 3,000 case production.
I am proud to offer these outstanding examples of Chardonnay at our EZ location in Toms River. Will the market embrace these gems and support them on the shelf? I’m a sucker for the longshot…