Molly's Meal Match: Chardonnay
Updated: Jul 26, 2021
Chardonnay is one of the world's most popular grape varieties. Even if you don't obsess over wine, you likely have heard of the grape Chardonnay. You have also likely heard the phrase, "I am an ABC drinker - Anything But Chardonnay." To that, I say "sacrilege!"
If there is one thing I put my fists up for in wine - it will be against those who refuse to try a sip of a wine, because of they didn't like it 5 years ago when they had it at Joyce's. Every wine varietal is different and ever changing. Just drink it! Then you can tell me you don't like that particular bottle of wine and why. Then we will try again with a different bottle. Besides, Joyce probably buys shitty wine.
Gasp...I will now come down off of my wine crate.
All Chardonnays are NOT butter bombs. Chardonnay is another amazingly versatile grape that is very similar to Chenin Blanc. The wines they create are an exhibit of a region's terroir and a display of a winemaker's technique. It's an incredibly versatile grape variety, that you can find in a wide range of styles: from still to sparkling, dry to sweet, light to bold, and acidic to creamy. Unlike Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay grapes are not as temperature/climate sensitive. These grapes are very easy to grow in many climate types, which contributes to its sustainable powerhouse of a status.
Chardonnay is the main white grape of Burgundy. Burgundian Chardonnay is often fresh, crisp and acidic, with flavors of apple and pear. Some of these notable wines are produced in the Chablis region. A very fascinating region that was once completely underwater. It has soils comprised of whitish lime stone, imparting flavors of gunflint, steel and minerality on the palate.
Chablis wines are rarely aged in oak; they are often aged in stainless steel, which does not impart flavor on the wine. Some producers will age Chardonnay for a short time in used/aged oak barrels, in order to deepen the flavors in the wine.
Unlike in California, where winemakers often choose to age their wines in new oak barrels. Thus, you end up with an "oaked" Chardonnay. Through this ageing process the grape's tannin, interact with the wood's tannin to create flavors of vanilla and develop a creamy mouth feel. Winemakers also allow the wines to go through malolactic fermentation, where tart malic acid converts to velvety lactic acid. Think of the wine's flavors of green apples, transforming into buttery flavors.
If you think you have been avoiding sipping on Chardonnay, but you have been downing the bubbly...I hate to break it to you, you have been drinking Chardonnay. Chardonnay is one of the three main grapes used in Champagne wines. It's used for the grape's high acidity, which contributes to the ageing ability in the wine. The most age worthy Champagne wines have high percentages of Chardonnay in the blend. The attributes Chardonnay brings to sparkling wines, has made it a primary grape in many famous sparkling wines like Cava, Blanc de Blancs and Cook's!
For me, I love a good buttery Chardonnay as well as a crisp Chardonnay. There is a time and a meal for both. Now that I have aggressively forced you into liking Chardonnay or at least into giving it a chance, check out these pairings!
Flavors + Aromas:
Primary (grape and alcoholic fermentation):
Floral: white blossom, honeysuckle
Green Fruit: yellow apple, quince, white peach, green apple, pear
Citrus Fruit: mandarin, lemon, lemon zest, lime peel
Tropical Fruit: star fruit, pineapple, mango
Other: chalk, pie crust, spicy
Secondary (post-fermentation winemaking):
Malolactic Conversion: butter, creamy
Oak: vanilla, nutmeg, pie crust
hazelnut, roasted almond
Still - Sparkling (Blanc de Blancs)
Unctuous and rich, fresh and fruity
Low - high acidity
High acidity allows for extended aging - up to a decade.
Regions of note:
Chablis: fresh, minerally, acidic due to the cool climate
California: creamy, buttery, oaky,
Wine Buying Tips:
You can find many quality Chardonnay wines from Burgundy, if you do not want to spend a lot, look for wine from the Mâconnais region for tasty affordable options.
Want a bold full tasting Chardonnay? Look for wines aged in new oak barrels.
Pair like with like. Pair with dishes that have creamy, buttery flavors, the soft textures will match the feeling of the wine on the palate. For a delicious juxtaposition, pair a creamy dish with an acidic Chardonnay.
Domaine Drouhin Vaudin Chablis 2019
Spaghetti Carbonara is an incredibly easy dish to make - it has a limited amount of ingredients and it's so damn tasty. It's a pretty dangerous recipe since it can serve 4+, but is easily consumed by 2. I mean, it's hard to hold back when bacon and copious amounts of cheese are involved. This rich creamy pasta is a delightful juxtaposition to an acidic and crisp Chablis. The apple aromas and mineral quality in the wine compliment the robust flavors of the Carbonara.
1/2 box of thin spaghetti noodles (reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water)
salt & pepper to taste
6 slices of bacon (1/2 pound)
1/2 cup of grated/shredded parmesan
garlic (3+ cloves minced)
1. In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Follow the instructions on how to cook the spaghetti noodles. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
2. Meanwhile, cook your bacon in a large sauce pan on low-medium, to ensure grease does not burn off. Once bacon is cooked to your desired doneness, remove from the pan and set on a paper towel to cool. Once cooled, crumble the bacon.
3. Sip on some wine.
4. Add minced garlic to the large sauce pan (with the bacon grease), cook until fragrant.
5. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, parmesan, 2 tbls of reserved pasta water. salt and pepper.
6. Turn the burner to low, add in the cooked noodles, crumbled bacon, and the egg mixture. Toss the noodles until evenly coated. Add additional pasta water by the tbsp if the sauce is too thick.
7. Serve immediately with parsley as garnish.
Roasted Pecan Chicken & Apple Salad
Unlikely Path 2018 Chardonnay
This pairing is incredibly delicious. The salad is tart, crunchy, savory and acidic all at the same time and the apple vinaigrette dressing takes the salad over the top! The flavors are perfect for a Chardonnay. It matches in sweetness with the roasted pecans, in aroma with the apple flavors, and in the acidity with the vinaigrette dressing. It's perfectly complementary. No aspect of the wine or the salad is outshining the other. The wine has aromas of apple, pear, and a flower I could not quite pick out. On the palate are notes of lemon merengue, minerality, and an oiliness that is reminiscent of a Grüner Veltliner. Yum!
¼ cup of raisins
¼ cup of flour
1 cup of roasted pecans
¼ cup of olive oil
¼ cup of apple cider juice
1 tbsp stone ground mustard
2 tsp honey
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
pinch of garlic powder
pinch of salt
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
½ lb of bacon
mixed greens lettuce
1.Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a mason jar, mix olive oil, apple juice, stone ground mustard, honey, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, and salt. Close the jar and shake the shit out of it. If you don’t have a mason jar – whisk the ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.
3. Cook your bacon in a pan or your preferred method - until crispy. I like to cook it in the Traeger for about 25 minutes at 300 degrees.
4. Meanwhile, place the roasted pecans in a Ziploc bag and lightly beat them into crumbs.
5. Put the egg (whisked), flour and crumbled pecans in 3 separate bowls. Drench the chicken in each bowl: egg > flour > pecans. Make sure the chicken is heavily crusted.
6. Bake the chicken in the oven for about 25 minutes.
7. Dice your apple into small cubes.
8. Crumble your bacon.
9. Sip on wine until the timer goes off.
10 Pull the chicken out and build your salad!
mixed greens > pecan crusted chicken > apple chunks > raisins > bacon > dressing
Poblano Corn Chowder
Krueger Family Chardonnay (South Africa)
The chowder is the perfect balance of creaminess and salty, savory goodness. These qualities make it suitable for pairing with an oaked Chardonnay - matching in mouth feel. The wine is unctuous on the palate, with intriguing herbal and citrus aromas. The sweetness in the corn also compliments the little bit of sweetness in the wine.
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup half & half
salt & pepper to taste
tortilla strips (garnish)
1 cup half & half
4 ears of corn (husked)
1 poblano pepper
1 sweet onion diced (red onion would be good too)
4 cloves of garlic (minced)
2 celery stalks (diced)
1 russet potato (peeled and diced)
1 lime (juiced)
1. Broil the corn and the poblano pepper on high, on a foil lined baking sheet. Rotating occasionally. They should begin to lightly brown. (You can also do this on a grill)
2. Remove from the oven and place the poblano in a plastic bag or a covered/sealed container. Set aside for about 10 minutes. Once the corn has cooled, cut it off of the cob.
3. Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan, heat the oil over medium. Add in the chopped onion and minced garlic, sauté until softened (3-4 minutes). Add in the diced celery and diced potato - cook for about 3 more minutes.
4. Season the cooking vegetables with the cumin and coriander.
5. Stir the vegetable broth into the sauce pan. Adding in 2/3 of the corn kernels (reserving some for garnish) and in the chopped poblano.
6. Sip on some wine while you bring the soup to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer for roughly 30 minutes. Vegetables should be tender and the liquid level will reduce.
7. Puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Mix in the lime juice and the salt & pepper to taste.
8. From here you can put the soup into a crockpot to keep warm, or you can serve it straight from the blender.
9. Garnish with cilantro, corn kernels, and tortilla strips.
Egg Benedict Casserole
R. Stuart & Co Winery 2018 Chardonnay
Breakfast for dinner! If you are anything like me, you are terrible at making poached eggs. It's just too stressful - plus this dish makes enough for the entire brunch crew. The buttery-lemony hollandaise is a delicious match for Chardonnay. This one in particular has a high level of acidity, that juxtaposes to the buttery flavors in the dish. Whereas, the yellow apple and lemony flavors match the flavors in sauce. Oregon has more citrusy linear styles of Chardonnay that are worth the sampling.
6 English muffins
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp paprika
cayenne pepper to taste
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup of half & half
1 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
12 oz Canadian bacon
1 stick of butter (melted)
lemon (1/2 to a whole juiced)
parsley for garnish
1. Pre-heat oven to 375.
2. Cut the English muffins into small cubes (half inch or smaller) , spread on a baking sheet and broil on high for 2 minutes. Flip/mix up the bread pieces and broil them for another 2 minutes. Make sure you are regularly checking the bread, to ensure they are slightly toasted.
3. Cut the Canadian bacon into small pieces (half inch or smaller), place 1/2 of the meat in the bottom of a greased 9x13 baking dish. Add a layer of the chopped/broiled bread, then top with the remaining bacon.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together 8 eggs, half & half, heavy cream, onion powder, paprika, salt & pepper to taste. Pour the mixture evenly over the top of the bread and meat.
5. Bake in the oven, covered for 30 minutes.
6. Clean up your mess and sip on some wine!
7. Uncover and bake the casserole, uncovered for another 15 minutes.
8. Meanwhile, make the hollandaise. Bring a medium pot to a simmer. In a metal bowl (it has to be only metal) whisk 4 egg yolks until they begin to double in size. Add in the juice of 1/2 of a lemon, continue to whisk. Place the bowl on top pot with the simmering water, while continuing to whisk, slowly add in the melted butter. When the bowl gets hot to the touch, remove from heat - continuing to whisk. Continue until the all of the butter has been added to the bowl. It will be a dance of whisking and taking the bowl on and off of the simmering pot of water.
9. Once the wet ingredients have been blended, add in a pinch of salt and cayenne pepper to taste.
10. Once this step is complete, the casserole should be ready to come out of the oven. Make sure the center is set and not runny.
11. Drizzle your hollandaise over the top of the casserole and serve warm.
I hope you enjoyed learning about Chardonnay and checking out these pairing suggestions. If you have feedback, comments, or questions please feel free to comment below, post to The Wine Tails Facebook Page, or message me on Instagram.
Thank you Wine Simple, Wine for Normal People, The Wine Bible, and Wine Folly for providing me with amazing research materials. Follow along with The Wine Tails Pinterest page to see what gets me motivated and gives me inspiration for these pairings.
Cheers and happy sipping!