It’s always great when you can find a reliable wine, something that hasn’t changed at all over the years, especially one that continues to be available to you at a reasonable price.
Even though I think I’ve outgrown something — well, one ‘thing’ in particular, but bear with me for a moment — it’s really cool when I can go back to it and realize my palate can still appreciate something I think I’ve ‘gotten beyond,’ for lack of a better phrase.
Here’s the sitch from whence this discovery came: We had company in the middle of the summer — the first time we’ve had extended overnight company for probably 15 years. I try to be a good host — I think I am one — but to be perfectly frank, I like to have my space to myself. But this was family and I was delighted to see them and we had a great visit and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Doing it on a regular basis, however, is simply not in the cards.
Just to further explain, not only do I not like people in my space, I don’t like being in other people’s spaces either. We have all kinds of friends who have generously invited us to stay with them at their cottages or at their homes — one invite came from Ontario wine country, even, and I turned THEM down — that’s how strongly I feel about this.
I know I’m a lousy guest — if a dog blinks three blocks away, I hear it and wake up. So when folks who are early risers (I’m the polar opposite, as evidenced by the fact that most of the summer I rolled out of the sack at 11:30 a.m. — it was BLISS!) try to be quiet in their own spaces, it’s no use. I’m awake, much earlier than I like, and usually crotchety because of it. So I find it’s easier on EVERYBODY if I either just go home (from the lake) or stay in a hotel if I’m far away from home and arrange to visit with folks at their places during non-sleeping hours.
Anyway, back to the original story. Since it’s been nearly a decade since I last saw these folks, I had no idea what they liked for wine. I knew they drank wine, but that was all I knew. So I went to the Liquor Mart and bought a selection of stuff to offer for the first night, planning to get more once I’d discovered what their preferences were.
I like to spoil people I love with great wine, as long as I know they appreciate it, because great wine usually comes with a greater price tag. But if they really, truly don’t care what they drink, then I think it’s pointless to spend twice as much on something they really won’t appreciate. If that makes me cheap, then so be it. To me, it’s just practical. For people whose palates I don’t know, I’ll ALWAYS give them the option of something lovely, and have them compare it to something less expensive. And if they pick the ‘better’ wine, good on them — I’ll serve it. If they like the cheaper one better, lucky me. And if they don’t have a preference, well, see above — it doesn’t make sense to spend $20 when, apparently, a $12 wine will make them just as happy.
So when I picked up the selection of beverages to offer my guests, I got what’s become my favourite chard recently, the lovely Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay 2012 from New Zealand. It sells for $19.99 before taxes. At the same time, I picked up a bottle of the Lindeman’s Bin 65 Chardonnay from Australia, which I’d always found to be a really respectable wine for $12.49.
So when it came time that first night to proffer wine, I did so. My guests liked them both, but opted to continue with the Lindeman’s (YESSS!!). I was already into my first glass of the Kim Crawford, which I like because it’s unoaked. (I once was a HUGE fan of heavily oaked chardonnays, but I’ve really gone back to unoaked, which was my previous preference.)
But before I replenished my guests’ glasses with the Lindeman’s, I took out another wineglass for myself and poured a small bit of the Aussie standby just to try it once again.
And you know what? It was good. REALLY good. I’d forgotten how good it was, especially for the price. And while I still prefer the Kim Crawford, I’ve gotten to the point now where I have a glass or two of that, and then switch to the Lindeman’s with food, especially if whatever we’re having for supper is robust, because the Lindeman’s certainly is. That said, it’s not super-oaky or overpowering. It just, in my opinion, is a little less elegant than the Crawford. But it works brilliantly, especially with food.
My husband actually prefers it to the Kim Crawford, which has a little hint of citrus the Lindeman’s doesn’t. And another friend, when I made him do a blind taste test of the two side by side, actually thought the Lindeman’s was much more layered and complex than the Kim Crawford. He thought it would be worth as least as much money, and was floored when I showed him what it was.
Anyway, while both wines are good, and you can’t go wrong with either one, the Lindeman’s certainly is more budget friendly. A caveat here, though — make sure you get the bottle and not the box. While the labels both read Lindeman’s Bin 65 Chardonnay, the stuff in the three-litre container is not — repeat, NOT — the same as what’s in the bottle. Maybe it’s the plastic bladder. But I assure you, I’ve compared the two side by side three times, and the box just doesn’t cut it.
But happily, the bottle does. So for a tasty treat that won’t break the bank, check out the Lindeman’s Bin 65 Chardonnay. I can almost guarantee you’ll be glad you did.
» Diane Nelson is a long-time journalist and former Sun staffer who really likes wine. A lot. Chat with her online at vinelines.ca or on twitter @vinelinesbdn
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 7, 2013