Chardonnay mêlée

chardonnay melee
The folks at Kermit Lynch wine merchants started a minor twit-flagration the other day by tweeting this provocative quote from the esteemed importer himself: “To me Chardonnay means white Burgundy, and the rest are, for better or worse, pretenders to the throne.”

The descent immediately ignited, lead by P. Cap, the fastest saberer in the East. “DISAGREE!” he tweeted, adding “Agrapart, Bouchard, Larmandier, Salon… Dude this conversation is POINTLESS!!!”

Covering the other still wine versions of Chardonnay, he added, “Ganevat, Overnoy, Mt Eden! Anybody else gonna join this conversation???” Others did, suggesting Miani, Borgo del Tiglio, Clos du Mesnil, Leclapart, and Sandhi. Certainly the list could go on.

What do you think? The statement is certainly provocative and largely correct: From Chablis to Chassange, the whites of Burgundy amply demonstrate the heights of the grape, showing why it is one of the top in the world. But the quote is also unnecessarily antagonistic: The stylistic pendulum has swung toward white Burgundy among Chardonnay producers (and consumers) around the world. Rather than dismiss producers outside of Burgundy who make chardonnay as mere “pretenders to the throne,” why not be more encouraging, nodding and noting the stylistic shift while singling out some leaders? Or is it damning with faint praise to call them Burgundian? Well, it least it is praise, which tends to go down easier on social media.

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18 Responses to “Chardonnay mêlée”


  1. Generally, I tend to agree with Kermit, with a nod to those bringing up the Champagne producers. However, I’ve poured many thousands of dollars of white Burgundy down the drain due to premox! If Burgundians want to maintain their place atop the Chardonnay throne, they need to fix this major problem.


  2. Doug – Great point and one that I meant to include (not enough coffee this morning, clearly). The prevalence of premox really does raise the risks for the consumer and I’m often surprised that the risk has not been more factored into the price.


  3. tempest in a teapot


  4. Steve, I believe the wine term is “tempest in a tastevin.” ;-)


  5. how about “trolling the vinternet”?


  6. Baloney!


  7. I agree about 98% with the exception being that I’ve been incredibly impressed with the Chardonnays that I’ve tasted out of Piedmont over the last couple of years.

    As for California Chardonnay, they willingly turned it into a caricature of the grape and these 11th hour attempts (undoubtedly driven by recent market rejection) to claim otherwise–through suddenly labeling wines that were always close to 15% as merely 14.1% or writing “terroir” 500 times on the blackboard like Bart Simpson or repeating “burgundian” over and over like rain man–have as little authenticity and sincerity as do the wines themselves.


  8. Orthodoxy is a choice. I prefer to experiment widely. Benchmark yes, sole source of quality? Not for many of us. That’s why the nickname is ‘the Frog’.


  9. From the standpoint of someone who has had experience producing wine, let me say that I’ve never understood the excessive fascination for the Chardonnay grape.

    Don’t get me wrong: some of the wines produced form it are spectacular products, but what the winemaker often has to do to get there is so often behind its success.

    So many other white wine grapes are much more exciting and they often don;t need as much help to get there as the so-called king of whites.

    Now, while you fling your stones and arrows, I’ll bow out and read how stupid I am for having such an opinion.


  10. I couldn’t agree more. Chardonnay is often heavy, even one dimensional, can lack distinction and complexity, easily over-ripens and all the rest. And just when you think not for me, you taste Raveneau, Leflaive or Agrapart . . .


  11. […] Chardonnay mêlée – Dr. Vino […]


  12. White Burg is pretty good but yo I gotta tell you Oregon Chardonnay is pretty darn tasty too!


  13. […] On Monday, “the folks at Kermit Lynch wine merchants started a minor twit-flagration” with a comment about Chardonnay. In case you missed it, Dr. Vino has the details. […]


  14. This is so indicative of the kind of conversation that happened before the 1976 Paris Tasting at which the advocates of the greatness of French wine were dispatched by their own palates.

    Still, Mr. Lynch is an icon and deservedly one. His opinion on wine ought to be paid attention to…for the most part.


  15. On the other hand, Bill Haydon is not an icon and does not understand or know California chardonnay.


  16. Actually, I understand it and its history quite well, Tom. I understand that those wines in the 1976 tasting had virtually no relationship to the hideous post-1994 direction that California Chardonnay was to take as it willingly prostituted itself at the alter of Robert Parker.

    California–and Napa in particular–chose whole heartedly to pursue a model of making Chardonnay more and more over-the-top, increasingly out of balance and ultimately quite grotesque in an attempt to appeal to Parker’s one-dimensional palate. Now that the market has turned vehemently against that palate and that style, they are left scrambling to undo the damage they did to themselves.


  17. Chardonnay?

    I’m an enthusiastic wine drinker who lives in SF, and for me Chardonnay is something that I love to drink.

    But ….

    I can NOT afford to buy $60 and more priced white burgundy, because when I spring for that price point I find less pleasure in the glass than I do with a $25 (or less) California Chardonnay. This is just my opinion, but I’ve got a slew of wine drinking friends and they all join me in this.

    I don’t disagree that white burgundy is great. But with a heavy price point surplus.

    Mostly I disagree with the idea that white burgundy is worth it automatically, given the great advances in wine making that have lifted the standard across the world.

    C.


  18. […] Chardonnay mêlée – Dr. Vino […]


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