Wine of the Week: Gatekeeper Chardonnay at the Wine Merchant Ltd.

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Gut Check loves us some wine. We want a bottle with bang and a bang for our buck, so every week we will visit a local wine shop, where an expert will recommend a good-value wine priced under $15. We'll drink some and tell you whether we want to continue -- because the only time Gut Check has our nose in the air is while we're draining our glass.

ETTIE BERNEKING
  • Ettie Berneking

After teaching a class full of wine laymen about the tasty traits of chardonnay, Phil Peimann, a salesman at the Wine Merchant Ltd. (20 South Hanley Road, Clayton; 314-469-4500), had plenty to say about the store's recent chardonnay newcomer: Gatekeeper. After wowing us with a mouthful of wine trivia, Peimann invited us to sit down for a taste of this fruity wine.

Many people have perceptions of which wines are within their budget and tend to steer clear of iconic wallet-busting varietals. That's why Peimann likes Gatekeeper so much. "There's no pretension behind this wine at all," he says. "It's meant to be drunk." And at the sale price of $13.99, it's easy to do just that.

One reason Gatekeeper, which hails from southeastern Australia, is bargain priced is that it's not a single-vineyard product. That, Peimann points out, can actually work to a wine's advantage when it comes to flavor, because it helps to ensure balance.

As Peimann walked us through a tasting, he directs our attention to notes of pear and guava on the palate. Our palate doesn't always pay attention, however, and the best we can manage is to detect that the Gatekeeper is indeed a fruity little number. But not too fruity, thanks to chardonnay's telltale kick of acidity. (The French use chardonnay grapes to make Chablis. Gut Check note to self: Save up for some Chablis.) The balance of sweet and tart makes this wine a good companion for barbecue chicken or even a great big mound of Chinese takeout, though the first pairing that comes to Peimann's mind is pasta with clam sauce.

Gut Check's take? Pair the Gatekeeper with anything you like. We enjoyed drinking it all, on its own. Delicious.

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