- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Clos la Chance, Unoaked Chardonnay, Monterey County, 2007, $15

While chardonnay remains America’s favorite white wine, more and more people are enjoying it in a new guise. Unoaked chardonnays taste lighter and more refreshing than their barrel-aged cousins. The wines are not as rich or buttery, but instead feel fresh and lively. As such, they can be excellent choices for warm-weather sipping.

Unoaked chardonnay isn’t new. French vintners in Burgundy have made wine with this grape for centuries. They once used barrels only for transport and storage, with the wood imparting little or no flavor to the wine. Some Burgundy producers still eschew barrels. Particularly in regions such as Chablis and Macon, they prefer to let the grapes from their vineyards sing on their own.

A number of California producers also are making good unoaked chardonnays. Although their wines tend to taste overtly of fruit, those flavors usually resemble apples and pears more than pineapples or mangoes (as often happens with wooded wines). Clos la Chance, a winery that deserves to be better known on the East Coast, makes an especially tasty one. Bright and vivacious, it offers plenty of flavor, fine balance and a harmonious, long finish.

Drink this wine on its own as an aperitif or with fairly light fare such as tuna, chicken or shrimp salad or a sauteed fish such as flounder, sole or trout. I promise you won’t miss those barrels.

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