Frei Brothers Chardonnay: as American as apple pie
Chardonnay isn’t as fashionable as it once was. But fashion is, of course, a collective illusion that clouds genuine judgement.
Regular readers will know that I love Chardonnay, especially ones from Burgundy. But, due to bad experiences with cheap expressions of the grape, I used to think I didn’t like it. This all changed when I had my first wine epiphany, at a beachside restaurant in Santa Monica, Los Angeles. It was a Napa Valley Chardonnay that did it — I didn’t know wine could be like that. It overshadowed the rest of the meal and started me on my Wine Ninja path.
So last Friday night I treated myself to a bottle of Californian Chardonnay, which I found on special offer (£13, down from £18) in Waitrose. It’s from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, a relatively cool region north of San Francisco, which (like parts of northern France) specialises in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
First sniff… it’s just another oaky American chardonnay. What a shame. But not so fast. After a few minutes I realised I’d been taken on an olfactory wild goose chase, when it opened up to unveil ever more intense vanilla, buttery caramel and baked apple aromas from the use of oak and malolactic fermentation. On the tongue, it’s sweet yet dry. And, most interestingly, it tastes like freshly baked apple pie! With a crispy, buttery crust. The producers describe it as having a “plush mouthfeel”. Ooh, steady on y’all.
You often see this type of wine compared with foods like apple pie, but that comparison generally falls on the nose. In my experience, it’s rare you find a wine that tastes as good as it smells. I guess that’s what you pay the best part of £20 for in this case. Classy stuff. The only letdown: like a lot of full-bodied, oaky Chardonnays, it gave me a bad head the next day. But then I did drink the whole bottle myself — don’t drink irresponsibly like me, kids.
4.5 NINJA STARS
Frei Brothers Chardonnay, 2015. 13.5% vol. £13 (reduced from £18) at Waitrose.