Chardonnay Changes

hardonnay remains the best selling white varietal in the U.S. Yet changes are afoot. Whether that’s good or bad depends on your taste. The buttery, creamy style is falling out of favor with winemakers, who are replacing it with styles that emphasize acidity and fruit. One unequivocally positive change is that the quality of lesser-priced Chardonnays has increased dramatically.

No matter the style, Chardonnays are lovely accompaniments to the flavors of late summer/early fall, especially paired with sweet corn, apples and squash. The following represents a range of California Chardonnays united by their relatively modest prices.

Alma Rosa Santa Barbara, 2008, $18More of a French style, with clean, pointed flavors and firm acidity. With its subtle fruit and firm acidity, it’s a great wine with shrimp and likes to play with the heat of chili peppers.

Cartlidge and Browne 2007, $13Lovely tree fruit flavors in a bright, snappy style with accents of oak and toast. Terrific with grilled salmon.

Raymond “Reserve Napa Valley, 2007, $16Easygoing with finely balanced apple and kiwi fruit. Fresh and cheery with little butter or oak. Try with white-fleshed fish with fruit salsas.

Matchbox Dunnigan Hills, 2008, $14Dark flavors with flavors of toffee, brown butte, and apple. A silky texture creates a seamless match with whatever you’d like to schnitzel.

Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.