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What's Open Owen? March '22 Edition

Spring is so close I can taste it. Literally. I feel like, at least here in Chicago, we truly live for the warmer weather. With Covid on the outs again (hopefully), I project a fun-filled and busy summer for the wine industry.

Wine tastes shift due to the season, with red wines reigning king in the Autumn and Winter, and pink, orange, and white wines dominating the summer markets. There have been introductions of other alcoholic beverages that have taken a significant chunk out of the wine world though. Some examples include sparkling seltzers, ciders, and canned cocktails. In fact, spikes seltzers alone comprise 7% of the total alcohol market now. This is a category that basically did not exist five years ago, which is quite impressive. Anything that can be enjoyed on a boat has seen some success.

I write a lot about red wines, but it is imperative to stress the importance of white wines, both to drinkers and how it aligns with food and wine pairing theory. Sometimes white wines have a bad reputation domestically due to many wine-making techniques that are popular here. The one that I hear most often is the draw away from over usage of oak in wine. Grapes are not naturally spicy or exhibit notes of baking spices like vanilla, clove, or smoke. These notes all come from the usage of oak barrels during production. When used right, a winemaker can add complexity and ageability to their wines with this method.

When a white wine goes through a process known as malolactic fermentation, which is the conversion of malic acid into lactic acid, it becomes heavier on the palate. It becomes what some wine drinkers describe as a "buttery" sensation. Some wine drinkers LOVE this, and if you do that's awesome! However, this can be used with the combination of oak to hide or mask subpar fruit.

I decided to highlight a wine that expresses the grape rather than the winemaking technique while using a grape that has a stigma around it in the US. I am talking about Chablis aka Chardonnay.

Isabelle et Denis Pommier Petit-Chablis "Hautérivien"

Chablis is a sub-region of Burgundy located at its northernmost tip and the only grape that is produced here is Chardonnay. As we've explored in past posts, the Old World names its wines after the village or region where the wine comes from, rather than the grape varietal.

The wine particularly is "Petit-Chablis," which is a designation rather than anything to do with the grape varietal. Do not be mistaken, this wine is 100% Chardonnay. Chardonnay was in fact named after a village in Burgundy that shares the same name! This particular producer is also organic.

It is a very clean and crisp version of Chardonnay with a major focus on its minerality, rather than its fruit flavors and aromas. There are notes of fresh green apple, pear, and apricot with high acidity and good aging potential.

I would pair this wine with a nice goat's cheese or a light whitefish dish. Shellfish would also make a lot of sense like oysters and mussels in a lemon cream sauce. Chablis gives Chardonnay a great name, and I love to pull this bottle for those who tell me that they don't like the grape varietal. I have certainly changed quite a few minds!

Have any questions or comments? Don't be afraid to reach out and let me know what you have open this month!


Owen Huzar

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