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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for March 29, 2000


Bland but Grand?


Dear Fred,
All the time that I was drinking and tasting your Chardonnay, I thought I was tasting a fine grape. Now the New York Times (a Mr. Prial) informs me that it is a very neutral grape, and that I was tasting oak chips.

Walter Tumbull
Red Bank, New Jersey

The Rest of the Story

I've always paid attention to Walt's opinions... during the three years I worked in Teheran, as Treasurer of the corporation he issued all of my paychecks! (as well as attending our food and wine classes with his wife, Virginia)

I've always paid attention to Frank Prial's opinions, too. He is not alone in his appraisal of Chardonnay as being your basic bland grape. Here's Willie Gluckstern in The Wine Avenger:

    "Chardonnay is the world's most overrated grape. It has little flavor or aroma of its own...As a wine, the only things Chardonnay has a lot of are alcohol and oak."

0K, OK. Then I'm not going to pay a lot for a neutral grape that has little to offer on its own. Here's a $6 model that will do fine, thank you.

Our Affordable Chardonnay of the Day

Delicato Chardonnay 1998 Delicato Chardonnay, California
Oak—The winemaker says he "strives for balance between oak and fruit flavors." Oak critics often say they want their Chardonnay to taste like wine, not like wood. This one does NOT taste like wood.
Dryness—In my classes, the students SAY they prefer DRY Chardonnay, but in blind tastings they often give higher ratings to those with just a hint of sugar to tame the tartness. This Delicato has a barely-detectable sugar level of about 0.8%.
Alcohol—Substantial for a $6 white...13%.
Rating—If you drink Chardonnays costing less than $10, this is recommended. If you like it, you are not alone. Production was way over half a MILLION bottles!


Maybe we should not be suprised about the "neutral" nature of Chardonnay. As you may know, recent DNA work by Dr. Carole Meredith of U.C.-Davis shocked the wine world by revealing that one of Chardonnay's two parents is Gouais (GOO-ay) Blanc, a Medieval grape "scorned for years by winemakers and ultimately banned in France!"

(Paul Recer, Associated Press)

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


This page created March 2000