Friday, March 26, 2010

Wines I'm Drinking: Six Cheap Chardonnays

I tasted six inexpensive Chardonnays blind yesterday--the last of the wines from Grocery Outlet I've been tasting ahead of one of that company's twice-annual wine sales (20% off all wines March 30 through April 3). The six wines I tasted were:

  • 2006 Imagine Sonoma County Chardonnay
  • 2008 Barossa Boxer Barossa Valley Chardonnay (Australia)
  • 2007 Ventus Patagonia Chardonnay (Argentina)
  • 2009 Aussie Vineyards "12 Apostles" South Eastern Australia Chardonnay
  • 2005 Fonty's Pool Pemberton Western Australia Chardonnay
  • 2009 Fly South Eastern Australia Chardonnay

2006 Imagine Sonoma County Chardonnay
Pale gold. Quite thin at the rim. Wood scents. Pear blossom. Fairly delicate nose. Nothing really distinctive at first, but later there were strong suggestions of toasty oak. The change on the nose with a little time was fairly dramatic. Rich and buttery tasting. Highly extracted. Has real presence. Acid is pronounced at first, but the tartness falls off fairly quickly and then comes back on a rather long finish also marked by toasty oak scents again and buttery flavors. Solid Chardonnay. Not great wine, but good everyday wine. My favorite of the group of six. Recommended. $6.99 at Grocery Outlet.  

2008 Barossa Boxer Barossa Valley Chardonnay (Australia)
Pale gold again and likewise thin at the rim. Very different on the nose, however. Citrus scents. Gooseberries. Very strongly reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc. Hints of grapefruit and vegetation. I think any experienced wine drinker tasting this wine blind would call it a Sauvignon Blanc with little hesitation. Moderate to light in body, but good length with a dry finish tinged with a lingering acidity. If you can ignore the fact that this tastes more like a Sauvignon Blanc than a Chardonnay, this is tasty everyday wine. My second-favorite among the six wines. Recommended. $4.99 at Grocery Outlet. Perhaps the best value of the group.  

2007 Ventus Patagonia Chardonnay (Argentina)
Fuller, deeper gold with a greenish tinge. Buttery, butterscotch nose. Scents of oil and cereal. Suggested flaxseed or a multigrain flax-rich breakfast cereal. Very unusual scent for a Chardonnay--or any wine. Not unpleasant necessarily, but different. Toasted grain scents. Tasted like toasted grain as well. Otherwise, not very distinctive. A bit flat (lacking in acid) and one dimensional. Short finish. I liked this least among the six wines, but none of these were outright bad. $4.99 a bottle.

2009 Aussie Vineyards "12 Apostles" South Eastern Australia Chardonnay
Palest of the six wines. Nearly colorless. Perfumey nose. Scented soap. Cinnamon. Sandalwood. Incense. Reminded me of a 1970s head shop. Later, melon scents, sappy scents. A hint of asparagus. Sharp attack. Acidic at first, but the acid falls away quickly, leaving a rather flabby impression. Not much length. No distinctive flavors. Not especially unpleasant, but not especially interesting either. $3.99 a bottle.

2005 Fonty's Pool Pemberton Western Australia Chardonnay
Very similar in color to the Ventus wine--a medium gold with a green tinge. Smelled like lemons, lemon cake icing, lemonade, then cereal or grain scents again. Later I began to get suggestions of pimento-stuffed olives and something suggestive of champagne, which usually means yeast and green apples, but the scents weren't quite as easy to pin down as that. Fairly concentrated and powerful on the palate, but not quite as assertive as the Imagine wine. Sweet, grapey, fruity mid-palate. Moderate to good length. Slightly tart finish. Not as good as either the Imagine wine or the Barossa Boxer wine, but probably my third-favorite of the group. I preferred the other two wines, but this is quite acceptable for everyday drinking. $4.99 a bottle.

2009 Fly South Eastern Australia Chardonnay
Pale gold. Thin at the rim. Floral on the nose. Most flowery of the wines. Honeydew melon. Tart, bright first impression, but the tartness falls away quickly. Moderate body. Moderate length. Some canned vegetable flavors on the finish. Not terribly distinctive. Not one of my favorites. $4.99 a bottle.

Conclusions: Looking back at the past week, choosing all white wines and rosés was a gamble on my part. The somewhat older wines Grocery Outlet often buys can be tricky in the case of whites; a little age is more likely to be a good thing in a red--but I knew something good would come of what I picked. There were several wines I liked well enough to recommend: the Bardolino Chiaretto and the Frias Family Vineyard rosés among the pink wines, and the Imagine and the Barossa Boxer wines among the Chardonnays, followed by the Fonty's Pool wine, the Blue Cove rosé, the Yering Station M.V.R. wine from day two, and the Clos du Bois rosé. I hope that gives you enough choices.....  

I will announce the winner of the gift card tomorrow.

GIFT CARD GIVEAWAY: I'm giving away a $50 Grocery Outlet gift card this week as part of the promotion. To be eligible to win, all you have to do is comment on one of my Grocery Outlet reviews this week (March 22-26), Tweet about one of the reviews or post a message about one of the reviews on Facebook. The winner will be selected at random from all eligible readers. The winner must agree to blog or tweet about what the card ends up buying at Grocery Outlet. That's all there is to it. Good Luck!

(For more information about the promotion, see my initial post on the subject. See more wine reviews by clicking the "Wines I'm Drinking" label in the bar at right. While you're at it, feel free to explore the rest of my blog. I write frequently and about many topics.)


  1. Great, now I can add a couple of bottles of the 2006 Imagine Sonoma County Chardonnay to complete my shopping list for the sale next week, thanks Again, Colin!


  2. I'm going to look for the Imagine Chardonnay next time I'm at Grocery Outlet - thanks for the great reviews ...

  3. Colin,
    More great reviews!! So glad I found your blog. I am looking foward to finding the wines you've reviewed at my local Grocery Outlet! My blog readers have enjoyed your reviews as well.
    Thanks so much!

  4. Alena, you ended up winning the Gift Card, but I can't find contact info for you anywhere. Please contact me at I want to get this to someone before the sale, if possible, so I'll have to look for someone else if I don't hear from you. Colin

  5. This is totally helpful, Colin. I'll swing by the GO on Tuesday prior to a trip up to NorCal, with your reviews as a good guide. usually, I keep a screwpull in my car just to test... this will save me drinking in the car!!!

    This is awesome. Thanks so much.

  6. I might have to take my lunch hour at the Grocery Outlet today in order to procure some wine for tonight's dinner.

    Thank you so much for all of the reviews Colin!


  7. I like the flaxseed description Colin. Not a lot of folks would even know what flaxseed tastes like. Thank you for taking the time to review it. for us. I love Grocery outlet and experiment with the wine selection often. This helps take away the gamble, but leaves the fun of experiment.

  8. Your review of the 2006 Blue Cove Rose (South Africa, Cabernet Sauvignon) with its salmon color and its strawberry scents pair'd with your grilled herb-stuffed trout and herbed mashed potaotes has my palate wanting to jump in my car and grab a bottle or two to enjoy tonight with some white fish and steamed vegetables. And at $3.99 a bottle it is definitely in my price point of great value wines I try to select.

  9. I'm also a painter. Flaxseed oil, of course, is linseed oil by another name. I'm very familiar with the smell of linseed oil from oil paints.I always thought it interesting that flax-rich cereals smelled like linseed oil. That's not the first time I've encountered that scent in a wine, but it's not that common. Anyway, thanks for your comment.

  10. Great reviews - I've really enjoyed this series. I would have totally overlooked the Barossa Boxer on the shelf, as I am not a big fan of Chardonnays & don't think of them as an Aussie specialty. The one you tried sounds similar to a NZ Sauvignon Blanc (gooseberries) which is my favorite kind of white wine.

  11. I love Sonoma Chards, so I need to get a couple of bottles of Imagine to try. Thanks for posting your reviews!

  12. n9840153@hotmail.comMarch 29, 2010 at 3:27 PM

    I love the picture of the glasses of wine, makes me thirsty.

  13. I will be looking for the imagine wine! Thanks for the review

  14. I enjoyed your descriptive write-up on the Apostles 12. Bought a bottle today. Was hoping the screw cap wasn't a giveaway. Save the cork trees!
    I'm always entertained when I see an apparently affluent someone (normally only shop at Wholefoods) pushing a shopping cart filled with wine at the Gross Out. What fun it is to take a risk on a bargin and be happily surprised.


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