Finger Lakes Wine Primer: Chardonnay

Shorter growing seasons may not be favorable in other parts of the world, but that limitation has proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Finger Lakes. It has determined our legacy. Certain grapes prefer a cooler climate, resulting in wines of higher acidity that are now being celebrated for their prowess at the dinner table. In this final installment of our Finger Lakes Wine Primer series, we’re taking a closer look at Finger Lakes Chardonnay.


It might be hard to believe that the American darling of white wines actually plays second fiddle to Riesling in New York, but it is true. It is not that we don’t love Chardonnay, but it grows pretty much anywhere where vines can survive. Although it originated in Burgundy, France, it is now planted worldwide, so there are an overwhelming number of wines to choose from on the market.

However, you will rarely find the big, buttery, oaky styles made here. Instead, the palate is apt to be surprised by the elegance and balance that cool climate Chardonnay can deliver. Many winemakers are omitting the oak barrel aging altogether. By letting the wines age completely in stainless steel, the unadulterated fruit of the grape stands front and center, with nothing to mask its purity. This style has become known as “naked,” and it is taking the world by storm. It’s like a rebirth of the wine we formerly knew as Chardonnay.

Finger Lakes Chardonnay grows on 350 acres throughout the region. The wines are lively, with an inherent tartness that brings out the flavor of any food you pair with them. Some favorite matches include fresh corn on the cob, creamy soups, curried salads and fish fries. They are ideal alongside summer clambakes, and are lovely with Waldorf salads in the fall. And they taste particularly nice while just relaxing on the dock and gazing over the lake at sunset. –Holly Howell

The above is excerpted from a larger piece in our 2013 Wine issue.

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