Play It Cool

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People who reflexively claim not to enjoy chardonnay are often reacting to a caricature they have of the big, oaky, tropically scented version bottled in sunny parts of California. However, the grape is a chameleon, adaptable to a wide variety of climates, soils and winemaking styles. Tasting “cool climate” chardonnay, with its typically brighter acidity, lower alcohol and absence of tropical notes, can be a revelation, particularly for sauvignon blanc drinkers, to whom its structure often appeals. These three are standouts in the category.

William Fevre Champs Royaux Chablis, 2015

From a renowned village in the northernmost reaches of Burgundy, Chablis is the classic cool-climate chardonnay, with a chalkiness that’s derived from its unique Kimmeridgian soil. Fevre is among the top names in Chablis, and this 2015 is a lovely apple-scented example, with soft, gentle, but persistent minerality. Bone dry on the palate, its flavors are a combination of key lime, peach and stony citrus notes. Light, fresh and mineral, the best Chablis wines are perfect with raw shellfish.

$25, Bauer Wine & Spirits


Ponzi Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve, Willamette Valley, 2013

One of the best-kept secrets in the world of wine is how wonderful Oregon chardonnay can taste. It’s understated and subtle, with mild, soft, creamy textures. Ponzi is one of the pioneering wine families of the Willamette Valley. The family harvests dijon clones of chardonnay for this reserve bottling, which has a buttery, pear- and apple-like aroma, with a clean but slightly toasty flavor and a vibrant lemon finish. A lovely medium-bodied chardonnay, it’s quite versatile with lighter or medium-textured fish.

$40, Beacon Hill Wine & Spirits


Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 2016

Very Burgundian in style, this bottle is from South Africa’s premier producer of high-quality pinot noir, Anthony Hamilton Russell. Harvested from vines located within a stone’s throw of the Atlantic Ocean, in the coastal “Heaven and Earth” Valley, the wine is fresh and vibrant, with lively green apple, hazelnut and baking spice notes. It makes for an excellent choice to pair with grilled fish.

$35, Federal Wine & Spirits


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