Chardonnay For Shavuot | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Chardonnay For Shavuot

Chardonnay For Shavuot

The wine industry buys on apple and sells on cheese for a reason.

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"Buy on apple and sell on cheese” is an old adage in the wine trade. The malic acid in apples will make almost any accompanying wine seem more harsh and sour, whereas the fats in cheese will make most wines seem richer and more supple (which is why so many wine shops always serve cheese at in-store wine tastings).

So when the editors at Jewish Week asked me to write about wines that go well with cheese (the food of choice for the upcoming Shavuot holiday), at first thought the possibilities seemed almost endless. But the art of pairing wines is not only about determining which foods will complement a particular wine, it’s also about deciding which wine will enhance the enjoyment of a particular food. With most cheeses — whether mild or sharp — a good barrel-aged Chardonnay will almost certainly enliven the dining experience.

Chardonnay is an extremely versatile grape, and can produce wines in a variety of styles from dry to super-sweet. When used to make dry, barrel-aged wines, Chardonnay will often have a rich cream-like element that can enhance the richness of a cheese dish, from a pizza to a cheddar fondue. For pungent cheeses, such as Roquefort, Port would make a better accompaniment. Sweet cheeses like mascarpone would best be served with a Muscat-based wine.

Chardonnay is also the most popular type of wine in America. According to recently released data from the Nielson Company, a global provider of information about consumer trends, Chardonnay accounts for 20 percent of liquor store and supermarket wine sales in the U.S.

Yet in the kosher market, it accounts for less than 10 percent of sales, according to Jay Buchsbaum, vice president for marketing and director of wine education at kosher wine giant Royal Wine Corp. Despite Chardonnay’s relative lack of popularity among kosher wine consumers, there are a growing number of quality kosher Chardonnays available, the majority of which are being produced in Israel.

So, in preparation for this article, I tasted eight recently released barrel-aged Israeli Chardonnays to find some good choices for your cheese-laden Shavuot meals.

Perhaps the best wine in the tasting was Tzuba’s 2012 Chardonnay:  Made from 100 percent Chardonnay grapes grown in the Judean Hills, and aged on the lees for four months in French oak barrels, this medium- to full-bodied, bright straw-colored wine has a rich bouquet of apples, buttermilk and heather. Look for flavors of apples and cream up front, moving towards a gentle oaky element, and hint of Seville orange on the finish. Well balanced, with a good mineral content, this wine should age well for the next three years.

Score A-. ($25. Available at Maslow 6, 211B West Broadway, Manhattan, [212] 226-3127].)

Also very good was Barkan’s 2012 Reserve Chardonnay. Aged for six months in oak, and made from Chardonnay grapes grown in the Judean Hills, this almost-full-bodied wine has a complex nose of apples, quince, citrus and toasty oak, with an unidentified herbal element. Look for flavors of apples, quince and oak at the front of the palate, a bit of spice mid-palate and a liquorish-like note on the finish. Drink within the next two to three years.

Score A-/B+ ($13.95. Available at Skyview Wine & Spirits, 5681 Riverdale Ave., Riverdale, [718] 548-3230.)

Those who seek a fruiter Chardonnay should try Carmel’s 2010 Appellation Galilee Chardonnay. This dark-straw colored wine was aged on lees in small French oak barrels for six months. It has a medium to full body with flavors and aromas of apples, pineapple, kiwis and lemons, with a creamy, oaky finish. Drink within the next year.

Score A-/B+ ($13.95. Available at Skyview Wine & Spirits, 5681 Riverdale Ave., Riverdale, [718] 548-3230.)

Another fruit-forward choice would be Binyamina’s 2012 Reserve Chardonnay. A Galilean Chardonnay, which was aged for six month in French oak, this medium-bodied, straw-colored wine has lively bouquet of honeysuckle and nectarine. Look for flavors of apples, Meyer lemons, and nectarines, with hints of honey and oak. Fresh, tasty and well balanced, this wine should drink well for the next two years.

Score B+ ($21.99. Available at Columbus Wine & Spirits 730 Columbus Ave., Manhattan, [212] 865-7070.)

Finally, those who like their Chardonnays on the lighter side should try the 2012 Tishbi Estate Chardonnay. Made from grapes grown in the Zichron Yaakov area, this light straw-colored, medium-bodied wine has flavors and aromas of apples, pears and hey, with a lovely hint of Mandarin oranges on the finish. Drink within the next two years.

Score B. ($12.95. Available at Skyview Wine & Spirits, 5681 Riverdale Ave., Riverdale, [718] 548-3230.)

Please note: Wines are scored on an ‘A’-‘F’ scale where ‘A’ is excellent, ‘B’ is good, ‘C’ is flawed, ‘D’ is very flawed, and ‘F’ is undrinkable. Prices listed reflect the price at the retailer mentioned.

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