Private Tasting: New Zealand Unoaked Chardonnay

By Kori ~ April 22nd, 2009.

Recently, we had one of our double-blind private tastings. When we sat down for our dinner, all we knew were that the two wines in front of us were white, but we did not know their region of origin or varietal. For a more complete description of how we set up these private tastings, please refer to How We Taste.

Gunn Estate Unoaked ChardonnayWhile we thought both wines were good, all four of us slightly preferred one over the other. When we finished eating and pulled off the sacks to reveal what we had been drinking, we found two unoaked Chardonnays from New Zealand. The 2006 Gunn Estate Unoaked Chardonnay beat the 2007 Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay.

While we had tasted a previous vintage of the Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay, we had not previously had the Gunn Estate. I learned about it from reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s 101 Wines book in which the 2007 vintage was his #86. Since we have long been fans of New Zealand wines but have not been very big fans of Chardonnay, I thought it would be fun to put two unoaked Chardonnays from New Zealand in our private tasting lineup to see what we thought of them when we did not know what we were drinking.

“I think Chardonnay, more than any other wine, got totally out of control with its oak monster. Far too often, the oak monster comes in, smashes all the fruit flavors and freshness, and leaves this wine tasting like a splintered two-by-four. So, I’m really passionate about this whole movement for unoaked Chardonnay.” –Gary Vaynerchuk, Gary Vaynerchuk’s 101 Wines

I could not have said it better myself. I want to like Chardonnay; I really do. But I do not enjoy tasting a wine that makes me think I am licking an oak tree or sucking on a stick of butter. For that very reason, I am excited that more and more wineries are producing unoaked Chardonnays.

Both of these unoaked Chardonnays are nice white wines that are worth a try if you see them on the shelf at your local wine shop. And with a Quality rating of 3.5 stars and a QPR of 5 bangs for your buck, the Gunn Estate is a great buy.

2006 Gunn Estate Unoaked Chardonnay (East Coast, New Zealand): Straw yellow with green apple aromas and dried apricot flavors. Medium-bodied and smooth. Well-balanced. Good with or without food.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: K&L Wine Merchants (California), $12.99; Bottlenotes (California), $18.00

2007 Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay (New Zealand): Straw yellow. Pears come through on both the nose and palate. Minerality present on the mid-palate. Lively and flavorful but has a slight fizz I could have done without.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle), $16.49; Available elsewhere, $11 to $22

Filed under: Chardonnay, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, New Zealand Wine, White Wine, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

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