E Wine of the Week – Bruce Cochran

Hello Everyone,
This week we’ll begin a series of discussions about the world’s most important wine grapes–where they’re from originally, moving on to where each is grown today and how the wine styles differ with the varying soils and climates. It makes a real difference when you’re pairing wines with foods.

This Friday at 11:30 a.m. you can hear my weekly radio program, The Wine Show, around the state and around the globe, live on the internet or download it for later. There’s a link from my website. www.brucecochran.com or go to www.kabf883.org

Taste something good this week!



Chardonnay is so famous that it might seem unnecessary to discuss it, but the world’s greatest white wine grape is capable of producing very different styles of wine when grown in different places. Styles can also vary when the wine receives different treatments. Let’s look at three broad styles, each available in different price ranges.

The Burgundian style is named for chardonnay’s original home, France’s Burgundy region. It’s a cooler climate, so most of the wines are more elegant, a product of less ripe grapes. The mineral laden soil also flavors the grapes, being drawn up by the vines’ roots.  Crisp, elegant and complex would be three words often used to describe this style.

New World style largely refers to California chardonnay, though there’s a lot of variety even within California. Speaking generally, it refers to a riper, fuller style, with more concentrated fruit and less obvious crisp fruit acids.  The flavor of the soil is not often a major factor. This gave rise to the phrase “fruit centered”.

Tropical Fruit style is an unusual sounding name, but it’s not unusual to hear it. It’s most associated with California Central Coast chardonnay, particularly those from southern San Luis Obispo County (Edna Valley) and Santa Barbara Country (Santa Maria Valley). The extended fall ripening period in those areas gets the most credit for this. Until recent years, many chardonnays were given extra richness of texture and less crispness, by a process called malolactic fermentation. It occurs naturally over time, but can be induced at the winery. It’s a little like artificial aging and can, in some cases, contribute to the “tropical fruit” style.

In many instances, oak aging is used less for the first style, and more for the last two. With more elegant wines, very much oak can overwhelm the fruit, resulting in a wine that is unbalanced. For a style that’s in between, with clean, pure chardonnay flavor and a balanced style, I like RiverAerie Columbia Valley Chardonnay, made by veteran winemaker Ron Bunnell.  In fact, I liked it so much that I became the Arkansas distributor.
Retail price approximately $12.99.

For questions, comments, or to subscribe to the electronic version of E Wine of the Week, email Bruce at: bruce@brucecochran.com

Categories: Legacy Archive