This blog post brought to us by Taalib Hasan - Wine Director - Oceanaire Seafood Room Atlanta
Big, buttery California chardonnays are among my favorite wines. I am constantly defending my predilection because so many people prefer lighter, crisper, food friendly wines. So this is my response to my detractors.
First, I want to challenge the idea that all wines require food. A good wine stands alone just as good food stands alone. I am an oenophile who drinks wine for the sake of the wine and the aforementioned chardonnays are typically designed for just that. These are big complex white wines that have fragrant noses reminiscent of kettle corn, honey suckle, and at times lush tropical fruit. Then these wines have wonderful rich textures that coat your palate (it is buttery). And along with the great texture California chardonnays carry a wealth of flavors including: apples, pears, mangos, citrus, almonds, shortbread and the list continues. For the finale, these wines present just as much complexity on the finish as they do on the nose. You will find a lingering buttery consistency, often accompanied by mouth watering acid that invites you to take yet another sip, and then of course just enough minerality to affirm a well structured wine.
Any wine displaying this much complexity will be difficult to pair with food, but why would you want to? This style of wine only needs the time and place to enjoy it. The reason why it is often difficult to pair these wines with food is because of the lactic acid in the wines. These wines go through a secondary fermentation call Malolactic fermentation. It is a process by which malic acid in the wine is converted to lactic acid which softens the wine and gives it its buttery consistency. Lactic acid is also the principal acid in dairy products. When the lactic acid in the wine comes together with the lactic acid in food the result is an overwhelming acidity on the palate that presents itself as a very sour taste. This is why most culinarians avoid pairing food with typical California chardonnays.
It is not completely without culinary merit. This style of Chardonnay does pair well with fried foods, dishes accented with fruits and nuts, and poultry and seafood dishes prepared with little butter and other dairy products. Consider a grilled fish along side a fresh salad studded with almonds and julienne apples and jicama perhaps. And if you must use dairy, I would recommend brown butter (butter heated to the point it turns brown) it has a very nutty flavor that accents chardonnay very well.
Til’ next time,
Oceanaire Seafood Room Atlanta