- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Kim Crawford, Unoaked Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2003, $18

For many chardonnay drinkers, the taste of the grape is inseparable from the taste of the oak barrels in which the wines often are fermented and aged.

Chardonnay need not taste like wood, however. In the hands of a skilled vintner, the fruit itself will shine, and the wine will taste fresh and bright.

Kim Crawford is one of New Zealand’s finest winemakers. He excels with that country’s signature grape, sauvignon blanc, as well as with chardonnay, which he makes in an unoaked and clean, but deliciously nuanced, style.

When not burdened by wood, chardonnay can become a lighter and more refreshing wine. Its flavors resemble late-summer fruits (crisp apples, ripe pears) more than those from the tropics, and its bouquet seems delicately floral rather than heavy or cumbersome.

This is a wine distinguished by finesse, not power. Pair it with medium-weight foods — poached salmon, for instance, or simply sauteed chicken breast. It also is delicious all by itself and would be a great choice to toast the arrival of spring.

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