As with "Light, Aromatic Whites" the emphasis here is on the "body" or "mouthfeel" of the wine and degree of oak that influences the white wine character. The best comparison in "mouthfeel" is to taste a stainless steel fermented Chardonnay (that has not seen oak at all) versus a Chardonnay, of the same vintage year, that has been heavily oaked. The stainless steel Chardonnay should taste thinner, brighter, and more acidic than the oaked Chardonnay.
Many original Chardonnay-lovers love this "White with Body" style: lots of oak flavors, buttery, butterscotch, caramel, vanilla, smooth, and crisp acidity. I'm sure those Chardonnay-ers out there know what I'm talking about. But there are varying degrees of oak that can influence the flavor profile of a Chardonnay... or any wine, really.
The level of oak places a big part in these varieties. The touch of oak allows not only for oxygen integration into the wine to smooth out any tannins and enhance the "mouthfeel," but it can also integrate specific oak-like flavors in addition to the varietal (grape) flavors. Additional flavors and "mouthfeel" alteration comes from the completion of malo-lactic fermentation, which is a secondary, bacterial-based conversion of tart, harsh malic acid (think green apples) to a less tart, softer lactic acid (think milk). However, some of the buttery flavors develope in the wine as a bi-product from the bacteria. This, of course, is a very broad explanation, but you can see here that the focus for these "Whites with Body" is the integration of oak and expression of malo-lactic fermentation versus the "Light, Aromatic Whites" which express primary grape aroma and flavor characteristics as well as their natural acidity.
Heavily oaked Chardonnays are an extreme of this style. I encourage you to reach out and try some other versions of this style, using different varieties. Check out a white Burgundy (which is Chardonnay), Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, or even a Petit Manseng if you are lucky enough to find one. A list of varieties follows.
(Photo by Author)
"Whites with Body" Varieties:
1) Chardonny (this is especially true of Chardonnays that have seen oak; Burgundy, France produces some lovely Chardonnays)
2) Sauvignon Blanc (The Bordeaux style of Sauvignon Blanc that is produced in Bordeaux and California, especially Napa, are "Whites with Body." However, I'd have to say that a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is more a "Light, Aromatic Whites")
3) Semillon (the cousin to Sauvignon Blanc; primarily used as a blending grape with Sauvignon Blanc, but Australia produces some varietals)
4) Viognier (this variety can be made in many different styles, either with or without oak. I recommend an Eastern U.S. Viognier, especially from Virginia. Check out White Hall Vineyards and King Family Vineyards. There are also some good Viogniers that I've tasted in California, one of them in particular Amazon Ranch)
5) Petit Manseng (a French varietal that is getting some popularity in the Eastern U.S., and one of my favorites. Can be made with oak or as a dessert style. I recommend White Hall Vineyards, Chrysalis Wines, Horton Vineyards, or Linden Vineyards and Veritas Vineyard and Winery for a dessert style.)
Food Pairings with "Whites with Body" Wines:
1) vegetarian dishes
3) turkey (think Thanksgiving with a nice, oaky Chardonnay)
5) game birds
6) spicy Asian cuisine
8) white sauce pastas
9) pizza (yes, pizza - how about a white pizza? or pizza with spinach?)
10) fish (i.e. salmon, trout, shellfish - the "heavier," "meatier" fish)
12) soft and hard cheese (this is really going to depend on the level of fruitiness to oakiness and richness of flavor and body overall)