Harvest Series 2021: Week 5
Grapes are coming are beginning to come in at full force and there is a great buzz around the wineries these days. With most of our early-ripening grapes making their way in, some Niagara staples can begin to find their way home at Lakeview Wine Co.! This week we will take a look at Chardonnay, one of the most important grapes in any wineries line-ups, and one of the wines that Niagara does best. While the grape itself can be simple in its raw form, Chardonnay can end up in so many different ways depending on the winemaking team. From sparkling wines, unoaked, barrel-aged, to even Icewines, Chardonnay is thought to be the king of white grapes in Niagara!
Every winery will do its own particular style of Chardonnay, and like most wines, there are no two that are the same. Fermentation techniques, barrel or stainless steel tank aging, or a myriad of many other forces can all give rise to the different styles that Chardonnay can take. Chardonnay can have a wide range of alcohol levels from 12% upwards of 14.5% or even higher in some circumstances. Chardonnay will classically have a slightly heavier mouthfeel, especially in barrel-aged versions of the wine. There are some people who will claim to be ABC (anything but Chardonnay) but they just haven't found a Chardonnay that they like yet. Here in our cool climate, Chardonnay thrives, and Niagara is known throughout the world for doing incredibly world-class Chardonnay.
Unoaked versions of Chardonnay, such as our 20 Bees Chardonnay, will typically be light to medium-bodied, crisp, clean, and refreshing, with notes of apple, pear, citrus, and tropical fruits. The beautiful thing about leaving Chardonnay in stainless steel tanks is you are able to focus on the natural fruity characteristics of the grape itself and taste it in its true form. While note a style that many places in the world focus on, some of the best Chardonnays out there are treated in this way. Unoaked Chardonnays lend themselves to warmer weather and lighter dishes such as seafood, sushi, or mussels, and are a great crowd-pleasing patio wine!
Oaked Chardonnay will be medium to heavy in body, slightly richer, and some even having a smoothy buttery mouthfeel to them. Oaked Chardonnay's will have notes of ripe green apple, pear, melon, fig, and vanilla, spice, and honey characteristics coming from the time in barrel. Our Lakeview Cellars Barrel-Aged Chardonnay is a prime example of how even a short period of time in the barrel can completely transform the wine into something truly special and delicious. While the industry standard in Niagara is to be using French oak barrels for aging Chardonnay, there are a few wineries in the area that are using Canadian Oak, which truly embraces our unique terroir here in Canada. Barrel-aging, much the same as in red wine, adds so much complexity to the wine. It is truly an art form when you are able to taste a perfectly balanced Chardonnay with just the right amount of Oak treatment to add complexity to the wine without overshadowing the grape itself. Now is a perfect time to enjoy a glass of oaked Chardonnay, and it pairs with all of your fall favorites, especially a creamy butternut squash soup.
Now hopefully we have a newfound appreciation for Ontario Chardonnay and can grab a glass or bottle the next time we are feeling like drinking some world-class wine.