Sunday, April 11, 2010

Battle: Chardonnay

I was shopping at my fantastic neighborhood wine store that has a woefully short selection of half bottles (don't they all) looking for half bottles of Chardonnay. To my surprise, they actually carried a half bottle of Mersault, so I grabbed one and the obligatory half bottle of Chardonnay in order to compare the two against each other. I actually grabbed three, but put away one in a moment of weakness (see previous post). In retrospect, I really wish I had that third bottle. Anyway, here it goes.

On the California side, we had Landmark Overlook Chardonnay from California (back label says Sonona/Sta Barbar/Monetery county blend) from 2007 with 14.6% alcohol that retailed for $10 to $15.00. From Burgundy I had Albert Grivault Mearsault from 2006 with 13% alcohol (but could be +-1.5% based on US law, I think).

Color: Huge difference. Mearsault was a very light hue of yellow, almost clear while the Landmark was a much deeper yellow (looked almost like melted butter).

Aroma: Mersault had all the classic Mersault characteristics, highlighted by an intense minerality that showed wet steel and even wet asphalt. Mild creaminess, lemon oil, even a tad nutty. Landmark exhibited intense oakiness and butter. Some pineapple and tropical fruits.

Taste: Mersault continued it's mineral theme, but added some apple/pear notes and a bit of spice. Landmark was rich, buttery, oaky, flamboyant and tropical.

Balance: The Mersault would probably benefit from a few years of aging, but very well balanced. The different profiles played in solid harmony with each other and the zesty lemony acidity kept it fresh. Although the Landmark has many fans, I found the oakiness to be overpowering. The acidity just didn't match the weight of the wine for me.

Ultimate Judgement: It's probably unfair to stack these two wines against each other. They have distinctly different styles and as one who prefers wines that are more elegant than powerful, I am naturally inclined to prefer the Mersault. Although both are Chardonnays, it's comparing apples to oranges (or papaya). I should have tasted the Landmark next to the Macrostie for a better comparison (which I enjoyed much more, but that could be due to not having a quality Mersault to compare against). In order to do this right, I have to do a better job of eradicating my preconceived ideas about Chardonnay. California Chardonnay, particularly the style of Landmark, is not Burgundian Chardonnay and should be viewed on its own merits. It needs to be looked at through the lens of what it's trying to be, and on that score, I think it is a good reflection of the showy, flamboyant Chards that many seem to like. Whether I learn to enjoy this style is another story. While the Landmark certainly hasn't pushed me any further, the Macrostie actually did.

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