13 August 2010

2008 Robert Oatley Chardonnay

As an addendum to my recent post on Bob Oatley wines, another bottle landed at the house recently. This is the 2008 Robert Oatley Chardonnay from Mudgee, New South Wales. $16, 12.5% abv. Dominant aroma of apricots and honey, not overly oaked. Firm acidity, clean finish, and like the others in the series, a convenient Stelvin screwcap. It's got enough strength so that it's not "Another Boring Chardonnay", but at the same time it's not obnoxious, brassy, or buttery.

* * *

I was thinking about pianos the other day, and how I played when I was a kid. I enjoyed it, and can still pick out a tune or two, but years of heavy typing have really messed up my pacing so that I'm scrambling to hit keys as quickly as possible. (I also have a bad habit of peeking inside the bench or stool to see what sheet music, tools, or other goodies are stored there.)

Beyond simple skill you can often tell if someone enjoys playing the piano or not. There's a twinkle in old recordings of Thelonious Monk that you don't hear from the lounge pianist grinding his way through the fifth drunken request for "Piano Man" that evening.

Like pianos, Chardonnay grapes are everywhere, and while there is potential for the greatness of Champagne or Burgundy, it's often easy and profitable to just pump out a yellow juice, knowing that it's going to sell because the name recognition is strong and it's considered the default white wine. It's nice, however, when you taste a Chardonnay and it's obvious that the winemaker cared about making a decent wine. It's those elements of balance and terroir that can make it exciting again even if it's your thousandth bottle. I'm not saying that this wine is a transcendent experience on the level of well-aged Burgundy, but it's a very enjoyable young wine for the price range and deserves notice amongst the flood of one note plonk.

* * *

I've spoken recently about picking up frozen fish at the grocery store, often in clear, vacuum-sealed packages. Sometimes it's something familiar, other times I just grab something new and look it up later to learn more about it. You have to cook different fish in different ways, but there's also a lot of environmental and ethical concerns that go along with certain fish these days. If you're interested in sustainable seafood, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a great resource for both individual species and different countries. I love Atlantic cod, but not so much that I want to see it go extinct in my lifetime. If eating Pacific cod helps the fisheries recover, I'll do that instead. If I just have a random craving for seafood, maybe it's better to eat sardines that start spawning at the age of two, rather than orange roughy that wait thirty or forty years before making babies.

Here I grabbed some farmed swai from Vietnam. Swai is a river catfish, and is pretty indistinguishable from our local versions in terms of flavor and how it cooks. I gave the filet (170g/6oz) a light breading of cornmeal, Old Bay, and flour, and quickly pan-fried it. Served with some brown rice and sliced local vegetables. It tasted great, and was a perfect match for the wine. It still feels slightly odd to eat catfish from halfway around the world, since there's any number of streams and ponds within walking distance of my home where I could catch the whiskered fish.

I will give a quick shout out to two local catfish restaurants that use Mississippi farmed catfish and produce an excellent product: Scales Café here in Cordova and the Olive Branch Catfish Company in Olive Branch, MS.

Note: This wine was received as a sample.


fredric koeppel said...

i am so bummed out on chardonnays, not just the cheap plonk but the over-oaked, stridently spicy, cloyingly creamy and tropical expensive ones.

Anonymous said...

Happy to drink this kind of wine. This chardonnay tastes light and focused and even has a little minerality. Plenty of texture and length and really a likeable style and begs for some food to go with it. More lemon lime and no real oak present...elegant and below 12.5 too.

Benito said...


I certainly know where you're coming from, and this was one of the first I've had in a while that really made me happy. I felt like Goldilocks, discovering that Baby Bear's bottle of chard was not too oaky, not too fruity, but just right.


Indeed, and I've had some white wines in the past that would have completely overwhelmed this meal, while others would have been far too sour/acidic.


Joe said...

listening to Mr. Monk now...

I'd have to say catfish is one of those fish I'd prefer farmed over wild-caught, so no big deal. Though, the folks in Mississippi (or Mississipi, as the University of Alabama spells it) might be mad after their big campaign to promote U.S. farmed cats.