Chardonnay ranks among the most popular wine grapes of all time, but the variety’s commercial success has created a backlash of sorts. Chardonnay fans have ensured the grape’s domination of the white-wine aisle, but this enviable market share also has inspired legions of chardonnay haters.
It’s easy to see why vintners love chardonnay: It is a productive vine that’s easy to grow and can yield top-notch fruit in a broad range of climates. Wine drinkers love that chardonnay makes some of the very finest dry whites. In warmer regions it makes stronger oaked styles that can range from custardy-rich to sharply nutty. In cooler, cloudier zones, this same chardonnay grape produces more delicate unoaked styles with subtler flavors of orchard-fresh fruits.
Frustration with chardonnay is driven mainly by boredom with California’s warm-weather take on the grape. At entry-level price points, California chardonnays frequently feature an excess of cognac-like oak aromatics and an overly creamy texture, which together can make for a balance that feels more cloying than refreshing. But wines like this one from New Zealand can convert even the most dedicated of chardonnay skeptics with a fresh take on one of the world’s most familiar grapes. Cold ocean currents chill the coastal Marlborough region, which adds a delightfully different lemony zing to chardonnay’s predictably appley flavor profile.
Oyster Bay Chardonnay Marlborough, New Zealand, $12.99 (regularly priced $16.99; sale price through Aug. 25), PLCB Item #0317, 13% alcohol.