When it comes to chardonnay, the choice is largely about stylistic preference. Big, rich and buttery? Austere and mineral-driven? Or perhaps something in between. I myself prefer a leaner style with subtle use of oak, or, in the case of Chablis, perhaps no oak at all. Within the various styles, the possibilities are almost endless, especially if you have a few bucks to spend. But finding interesting chardonnay on the cheap is a different story. The under-$10 category is filled with generic, commercial-grade chardonnays that are usually forgettable. For me, a better choice is sauvignon blanc or even pinot grigio.
That said, it’s nice to be surprised, as I was recently by an $8 offering from France. The wine was the 2008 Chardonnay from Fortant de France, a vin de pays produced in the Languedoc by the Skalli family. The Languedoc is France’s biggest area in terms of wine production and, for $8, I was not expecting Burgundy. But I liked what I tasted in this budget chard – its pear and apple, lime and herbal notes; its judicious use of oak, and the fact that it was refreshing rather than sweet or cloying, as chardonnays at this price tend to be.
This one, in fact, drinks like a somewhat more expensive wine and speaks well of the quality that’s coming out of the Languedoc these days at very affordable prices. The Skalli family, by the way, also owns the St. Supéry label in the Napa Valley. (Wine received as a press sample.)