Have you hit that point in your life where there's nothing more you'd rather do on a Friday night than sit in front of the TV in your jammies, cuddled up in a blanket, with a big bowl of buttery popcorn? Because I have definitely hit that point in my life. My friends, let's add a bottle of wine to that scenario. Your Friday (or any night, who are we kidding?) has just gone from great to positively kick-ass. So what wine goes best with that big, buttery bowl of popcorn? A bottle of big, buttery Chardonnay. Butter + more butter = bliss, after all. And the good news is, the buttery flavors in Chardonnay don't ACTUALLY come from added butter, so your diet doesn't have to take that extra hit! (But seriously who goes on a diet that eliminates butter? Butter makes everything better.)
Why Does Chardonnay Sometimes Taste Like Butter?
There's a little thing called malolactic fermentation that Chardonnay can go through when its transforming from grape juice to wine. Malolactic fermentation (let's call it "malo" for short) is a naturally-occuring, secondary fermentation where sour malic acids (like the flavors you get in a sour apple) are turned into lactic acids (like those found in butter and cream). Almost all red wines go through malolactic fermentation because their flavors need to soften out. Whites, on the other hand, have a choice. Chardonnay doesn't always have to go though malo, but when it does, you get a heavier-bodied wine with those classic butter and cream flavors. If the Chardonnay ages in oak before going into the bottle in your hands, you'll have an even more rich, creamy wine. A perfect pairing with popcorn.
How to Pair Chardonnay with Popcorn
So we want three things when we're pairing Chardonnay with Popcorn: weight, oak and buttery flavors coming from malolactic fermentation. A heavy-bodied wine will coat your mouth while the buttery flavors will naturally compliment the corn kernels. When it comes to Chardonnays with some weight and oak on them, I go to California--Napa, in particular, although there are great examples from many parts of the state. For this post I wanted to feature one of my favorite weeknight-drinking Chardonnays from Napa Valley: Franciscan Estate. It has an amazing balance of acidity and weight, giving some incredible cream and butter flavors that went amazing with the popcorn I whipped up. If you can't get your hands on a bottle, however, don't worry--many Chardonnays will pair with popcorn so feel free to be adventurous.
Other Recommended Chardonnays to Pair with Popcorn
I don't want to get too fancy on you since we're just enjoying a lazy Friday night in front of the TV with a bottle of wine and a bowl of popcorn, so let's pick all Chardonnays under $20, most of which you can find at your local grocery store. Score!
- Franciscan, Napa Valley (the wine featured in this post)
- Napa Cellars, Napa Valley
- Francis Ford Coppola, Monterey County
- Ferrari-Carano, Sonoma County
- Chloe, North Coast