Older Chardonnays Still Rock

Now, we all know that some white wines are made to age – especially French whites.  And of course Chardonnay is one of the best white wines to age, especially when it has seen oak treatment.  But when you’re talking about the American market, most consumers are wary of older vintages, and when given a choice will pick the younger wine.  Of course this means much more with most Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Grigios, as these wines taste best young.

I drink a lot of Chardonnay these days, which is still surprising to me.  I used to drink reds and while I had an appreciation of whites, I would almost never open a bottle at home.  All of this changed with an aged Italian Chardonnay – Marina Cvetic ’01.  This was in ’09.  It was stunning, rich and smooth, light vanilla and caramel and the perfect toasty oak finish.  The best part?  This wine usually retails for $40.  Because of its age, it was on a deep discount – $10.  I bought a case and attempted to sell some, but I ended up drinking almost all of it myself because of my customers reluctance to look past the older vintage, and the fact that it was from Italy, a place not very well known for that varietal.

Since then I have done a complete turn around, drinking mostly white wines now – not just Chardonnay, just about any white varietal finds itself on my dinner table these days.  I have realized that most of the food I cook pairs better with white wines, and both the food and wine taste better that way.

At this time of year, the fresh vintages of whites are coming out for the summer season, and many of my distributors are trying to get the older vintages out of their warehouses before it’s too late.  I picked up several cases of  Terlato Russian River Valley ’06 for a measly $10 a bottle retail when it usually goes for $20-30, a case of Conn Valley ’06 for a bit more  that usually retails for $40, a case of ’06 Pouilly-Fuisse for $8 (and if you know Pouilly-Fuisse, that’s a steal), and an ’05 Larry Bird/Constantino wine for $5.

All of these wines are still drinking great – arguably even better than on release, at a fraction of the cost.  Since I tend towards Chardonnays that are in the $20 range, this is great for me – I get quality wine at a much lower price to drink at home all this summer.  I will try to sell some, of course, but they are hard even to hand sell.

So, if you are a consumer who likes good Chardonnay, I would counsel you to look in the sale bins or pay attention at this time of year for good deals on older vintages.  You may have a better chance of getting an off bottle, but any shop will refund your money if you bring it back (undrunk, of course), so my advice would be to make sure you have a back up wine for the evening, which at these prices, shouldn’t be too hard on the wallet.  And what you’ll get is smooth, creamy, well structured wine that is a pleasure to drink.

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