We discovered Chile's Xplorador wines while engaging in rigorous research to determine our favorite food-friendly happy hours. At one of our top five we ordered the 2011 Xplorador Chardonnay from the reliable house of Concha y Toro and liked its zesty, fruit-forward style very much. We were glad to find it a few weeks later on a nearby food market's shelf for $8.99.
Clean and crisp, this white wine leads with a bouquet of lemon, light vanilla and wildflowers. It opens on the tongue with a smooth wave of ripe pear abetted by lemon, vanilla and a bit of papaya. A judicious touch of light butterscotch, neither cloying nor sweet, chimes in at mid palate and persists through a long, silky, refreshing finish.
All in all, this chard offers a harmonious blend of flavors in the modern, less oaky style from first to last. We would pair it with dishes like pan-seared then roasted chicken, seared sea scallops, pan-sauteed grouper or roasted winter squash that rely on carmelization to unlock their flavors.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel. For an index and archive of reviews, go to pictograph.com.