Tasting Notes: Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuisse

Calling all Chardonnay lovers out there! Pouilly-Fuisse may be difficult to pronounce (pwee fwee-say), but don't let the confusing name throw you off... it's Chardonnay! As some background, Pouilly-Fuisse is an appellation within the Macon sub-region in Burgundy, France. Uhhh... come again? French wine is confusing, but just think of Pouilly-Fuisse as a specific type of wine made in and named after a small part of southern Burgundy. Anyway, I wanted something that would go well with the chicken pot pie I picked up at Whole Foods, and Pouilly-Fuisse is known to go well with poultry, especially in a cream sauce.

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The Facts

  • Producer: Louis Jadot
  • Region: Burgundy, France
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Variety: Chardonnay
  • Where I purchased: Gift, but is widely available (grocery stores, Total Wine, etc.)
  • Price: $24-31

The first thing I noticed was that the wine was a yellow-gold color, darker than most whites I've had. It had notes of yellow apple and lemon. I also picked up on some almond on the nose, which may be from aging in oak. Most Maconnais Chardonnay is light and unoaked, but my understanding is that Pouilly-Fuisse (a smaller region within Macon) usually sees some oak. In reading Jadot's winemaking notes, a portion of the wine is fermented in vats, while another portion is fermented in oak barrels. This helps keep the crisp and fruity flavors, while also adding some body and weight to the wine. I have to say that it was a great choice for chicken pot pie. The creamy mouth-feel of the wine matched perfectly with the gravy filling, but there was enough acidity to cut through the richness. Overall, I really enjoyed drinking this wine, but for the price point, it wouldn't be my daily go-to. I would highly recommend having this for a party or bringing as a hostess gift. It is food friendly, and I think it would please both oaky Chardonnay and unoaked Chardonnay drinkers!

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Tasting Notes: Trader Joe's Reserve Brut Sparkling

I'm back, everyone! It was nice to take a break, especially since it was my first "busy season" at my new job. There were some long nights in there, but I pulled through! To celebrate the return, I thought what better than to have a sparkling wine. Plus, in case you haven't noticed, they're my favorite.

While we were on the Whole30 (which if I'm being honest, I didn't finish), we did a bit of shopping at Trader Joe's. I've always been a little intimidated by their wine section because I just don't know where to start. I know there are some gems in there, but I'm more worried about the bad apples I may have to try (ex: their canned wine) to get to the gems. Anyway, the last time I was there, I decided to risk it and put this inexpensive bubbly into my basket.

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The Facts

  • Producer: Trader Joe's (I guess?)
  • Region: California's North Coast
  • Vintage: NV
  • Variety: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
  • Where I purchased: Trader Joe's
  • Price: $9.99

After looking at the bottle more, I had high hopes for this wine. It said "Methode Champenoise" on the label which means the wine goes through secondary fermentation in the bottle... same as Champagne. Plus, it is the same grapes as Champagne, so that combined with the "methode champenoise", I was hoping for that hidden gem I mentioned earlier! When I opened the bottle, I did not get any hint of breadiness (often described as yeasty, brioche, toast, etc.). This comes from the wine being on the lees, or dead yeast cells. It's my new favorite flavor and aroma in a sparkling wine, so I was a little disappointed. But for $9.99, my expectations were way too high, and I could move past it. The wine was definitely fresh and zingy. Lots of citrus and tart apple notes. It was almost a little too zingy... definitely no shortage of acid in there. I'd say at first, it made my eyes go wide, but then I got used to it and found it to be refreshing. I think it'd be great for mimosas or with fried foods because that acidity would be perfect to cleanse the palate. I think I'll try their rosé next time! 

Do you have any favorites at Trader Joes? Leave a comment, if so. I'd love to try them!

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Chardonnay

In the spirit of learning about Champagne and all of its deliciousness, I thought a great place to start would be the grapes. Yes, history of the region is also a good place to start, but without the grapes, there'd be no wine! Champagne can be made from three different varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. I've already done a grape series on Pinot Noir, which you can find here, and I felt that Chardonnay was a natural next place to go. It's recognizable, accessbile, and even if you don't like or are unfamiliar with Champagne, you may be Chardonnay fan!

Chardonnay

Key Facts for Chardonnay:

  • It is the most planted white (or green) grape in the world.  
  • Chardonnay originated in Burgundy, France.
  • The grape is more neutral in flavor which is why it tastes so incredibly different depending on where or how it is grown and/or the winemaking process (oaked vs. unoaked). 
  • Unlike Pinot Noir, Chardonnay is fairly easy to grow and is very adaptable to different growing conditions.
  • Wines you may not know are Chardonnay: Blanc de Blanc Champagne, Chablis, and White Burgundy.

As I mentioned above, Chardonnay is a grape whose flavor ranges widely. Flavor depends on the ripeness of the grape, which is linked to the region it is grown in. In colder climates where the grapes don't get as ripe, the flavors tend to be more crisp like lemon and green apple. In warmer climates, the flavors can become more tropical with notes of pineapple or peach. When researching, I came across these other, more unexpected flavors: Beeswax, smoke, saline solution, and wet rock.

What's with the buttery Chardonnays?!

Buttery and oaky Chardonnay has to be the most polarizing wine. Totally love or hate with that one. The vanilla and oak flavor is imparted from... well, oak. Oak barrels, to be specific. The buttery and creamy texture that is often paired with oak comes from malolactic fermentation (MLF). I've discussed it before in this review of Ramey's Chardonnay, but to recap, MLF is a secondary fermentation with a different kind of yeast where the tart malic acid is transformed into a "creamier" lactic acid. This produces diacetyl which is the chemical compound that causes the buttery flavor. Love buttery Chardonnays? Be on the lookout for wines that have gone through MLF... a good wine professional will be able to point you towards those, but Napa Valley Chardonnay is well known for these types. Hate it? Maybe look toward Old World Chardonnay (specifically Chablis) or Australia, as wines from that region have minimal to no oak aging. 

Chardonnay Pairings

Chardonnay is very versatile when it comes to pairing with food and is a great white if you're uncertain what to do. Keep in mind that the style of Chardonnay, mostly whether it's oaked and buttery or unoaked, will be the most important factor in deciding what to pair with your food. Oakiness can overpower lighter fish dishes, while the acid and citrus notes of an unoaked Chardonnay would work great with shellfish (ex: oysters). Oaked chardonnay would work very well with poultry (chicken, turkey, etc.), especially when roasted or more bold in flavor. But what have I always said? Drink what you want with what you want! 

Tasting Notes: Ramey Chardonnay

Kevin bought this bottle one day after we had one of our favorite Chardonnays from a pricier winery. We love a good, crisp Chardonnay, but don't always want to spend top dollar. Now the Ramey isn't "every day" either, but it's at least significantly less and can be found easily! We had also tried out some other Ramey wines and enjoyed them, so choosing this label wasn't a total gamble.

The Facts

  • Producer: Ramey Wine Cellars
  • Region: Russian River Valley, CA
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Variety: Chardonnay
  • Where I purchased: Unknown, but it is sold at Total Wine.
  • Price: $33.99
Ramey Chardonnay 2
  • Eyes: The wine is a light, yellow-golden color. The picture above actually does a good job of accurately showing the color we saw in person. It was very pretty, and it definitely made me think it'd have a little more body than some of the other whites we've been having recently. It wasn't as dark as I expected it to be which made me hope it wouldn't be overly oaked.
     
  • Nose: This wine smells lovely! The main aroma that I caught was apple, which I love in wines, but there was also some other stone fruit -- pear, specifically. 
     
  • Mouth: The wine tasted of apple, but I actually got some tropical fruit in there like pineapple. I also found this wine to be tart, acidic, and have some mineral notes to it. I was a little surprised given this wine is oak aged and has gone through malolactic fermentation ("MLF"), but it was a good surprise since I tend to shy away from buttery and creamy Chardonnay. I suppose I shouldn't have been that thrown off given the fruit flavors present... green apples are tart and pineapple is acidic! 
     
  • Thoughts: I was actually really pleased with this Chardonnay! I was a little worried given the MLF, but I really didn't pick up on much vanilla/oak characteristics as I would have expected. I don't know if that was a vintage thing or if it that will hold true if we give other years a try. The flavors and acidity were overall very pleasant to drink, especially on a warmer evening. It also paired very well with our dinner, which was a recipe called Halibut Olympia. You can find variations of that recipe online, but here's the one we make from my dad. Since it's so easy and it paired wonderfully with this Chardonnay, I thought I'd go ahead and share with you all!

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What's the deal with Chablis?

I feel like I’ve mentioned Chablis a lot recently, so I thought it’d be nice to go into a little more depth about the region.

Chablis (pronounced shah-blee) is the northernmost region in Burgundy and Cote d’Or. Here is a map that helps you get an idea of where Chablis is in relation to the rest of France.

This region produces white wines from 100% Chardonnay grape and the wines are known for their dry, mineral, steely, chalky flavors.

There are four “levels” of Chablis:

  • Petit Chablis - These use basic quality Chardonnay from outlying land. The least expensive.
  • Chablis - "Generic" village wines. These wines have the most variability between producers and vintages.
  • Chablis Premier Cru - 40 high quality sites.
  • Chablis Grand Cru - There are 7 Grand Cru vineyards located on a single hillside near the town of Chablis.

These wines, especially the basic ones, are typically aged in stainless steel as opposed to oak which provides for the crisper flavor and lighter body than the New World expressions of Chardonnay. There are some producers that will age in oak, but these are mainly found with the Premier Cru and Grand Cru levels. Also, because Chablis is in the northern part of France, the climate is cooler which produces wines with more acidity.  The chalk and mineral notes come from the Kimmeridgean soil in the area which is composed of limestone, clay, and fossilized oyster shells. Other Chablis aromas to note are citrus, honeysuckle, and green apple. Premier Cru and Grand Cru are known to have a different set of aromas such as mushroom, honeycomb, dried apricot, gingerbread, almonds, and candied ginger.

If you think you do not like Chardonnay because you find them too buttery and oaky, I recommend you try out a Chablis! I’d stick with the Petit Chablis or Chablis levels at this point because they tend to have the least amount of oak. If you're intimidated by Old World (i.e. European) labels, here is a good post from none other than the trusty Wine Folly that will help guide you. Otherwise, always be open to asking recommendations from the employees of wherever you buy your wine! Recommended food pairings include the more obvious oysters, shellfish and white fish, but they also include southern fried chicken, sushi, and fish and chips. I hope you enjoy this new found region (for me) as much as I do!