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These Spirits Capture Chardonnay’s Zippy Appeal

These Spirits Capture Chardonnay’s Zippy Appeal

Chardonnay’s versatility and zippy acidity appeals to those making creative spirits and mixing cocktails.

Most likely, you’ve already had it in your martini: The grape often goes incognito in white vermouth and aperitif wines, sometimes as part of a blend (for example, Italy’s Carpano Bianco mixes it with Trebbiano and Cortese grapes). Others are more forthcoming, trumpeting local variations as a badge of micro-terroir: Atsby Vermouth uses a base of Long Island Chardonnay, while California aperitif-maker Mommenpop has worked with wine from the Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino regions.

Chardonnay “adds body and texture to our products, and to any cocktails made with Mommenpop,” explains founder Samantha Sheehan. The aperitif-maker works with early-picked grapes, which “adds acidity and citrus character—literally more citric acid,” an ideal backdrop for sweet-and-tart-straddling bottlings like Makrut Lime and Kumquat-Pop.

The mellower tones of oak-aged Chardonnay draw fans, too. Notably, Glen Moray’s Classic Chardonnay expression relies on Chardonnay casks sourced from France’s Burgundy region for gentle layers of tropical and stone fruit for a dram the single-malt producer describes as “sweetly approachable.”

Curious how Chardonnay plays in cocktails? Try the Journey to the Milky Way, which dispatches an entire bottle’s worth alongside pineapple gum syrup, Sauternes and spiced velvet falernum.

Undercover Chardonnay Bottles to Try

Mommenpop Kumquat-Pop

This seasonal release gets its mouthwatering pucker from organic kumquat and persimmon, plus Chardonnay grapes sourced from Carneros on the Napa side, “so it’s close to the inlet of the bay where it’s cooler,” meaning a tarter flavor. Try it in a Spritz.

Bitters & Bottles

O.R.E. 118 Raw Vegan Gin

Distilled from a Chardonnay grape base at temperatures never exceeding 118°F, in keeping with the tenets of raw foodism, this gin has a distinctly fruity aroma and flavor, finishing with a peppery kick.

$ Varies

Glen Moray Classic Chardonnay Cask Finish

This six-year-old Speyside single malt spends an additional two years in French Chardonnay casks, adding hints of banana and apricot to the Scotch’s vanilla and oak core.

Total Wine & More

Nonino Grappa Chardonnay

Italy’s Nonino made its name with single-variety grappas, and this bottling shows why. It bears a passing resemblance to the undistilled wine, with juicy fresh fruit and a light vanilla scent.

Total Wine & More

Atsby Vermouth Amberthorn

A rich take on white vermouth from a New York state craft producer, featuring Long Island Chardonnay fortified with brandy from upstate New York. Look for hints of honey and chamomile.

$ Varies

Westward Whiskey Chardonnay Cask 2022

An Oregon single malt finished in French oak casks that previously held Chardonnay for a Russian River Valley winemaker. The end result adds bright acidity to the whiskey’s naturally earthy, spicy core.

Westward Whiskey

Thomas S. Moore Chardonnay Cask Finish Kentucky Straight Bourbon

One of a trio of wine-finished whiskeys introduced in 2020 by Barton 1792 Distillery, this is a straight bourbon (at least four years old) aged an additional one to three years in an emptied Chard cask, which adds hints of citrus and tropical fruit.

Total Wine & More

A version of this article originally appeared in the April 2023 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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Published on March 31, 2023

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