It’s #AllAboutChardonnay….

Monday, November 11th, 2013

People that work in the wine trade always have a story: a wine moment that sealed their destiny and career direction forever. Being born with a nose on the wrong side of dainty meant a lot of my fate was written genetically but my wine moment was relatively simple. I got a job at Christie’s the auctioneers in their education department, it was my first job after I graduated and I was organising the logistics and subscriptions to their wine tasting evenings. The nights were hosted by esteemed Masters of Wine that I had no appreciation of at the time and were attended by rich middle class men, their chums or their wives. As you can imagine, some of the wines we poured (and got to take home the leftovers of) were outstanding, nothing like I’d ever been exposed to before. My dad was a home brewer so up until this point I knew about ale and beer not wine. But it wasn’t the Bordeaux First Growths that caught my taste buds, nor the delicacies of Burgundy and Champagne. No, it was a Chardonnay from New Zealand that stopped me in my tracks and got me thinking… “this job is awesome, why didn’t I think of wine before?”

That was in 2001, now 12 years on and Chardonnay is still without hesitation my favourite white grape of all time. Even during the ABC (Anything but Chardonnay) backlash and the bashing of Bridget Jones I’ve stood up for Chardonnay and continued to drink it with pleasure and pride.  But I don’t think I’ll have to be cheering for the Chardonnay team alone for much longer because it’s making a come back in a big way.

Stylistically Chardonnay has changed. From the rich buttery, caramel style of the Bridget Jones era winemakers have responded to consumers’ desire for lighter, more refreshing wine by holding back on the oak and letting the regional characteristics of where the Chardonnay has been produced show through. The country that is taking the lead is the very same one that spearheaded the toasty butterscotch sickliness that Chardonnay was abandoned for in the first place and are creating Chardonnay of elegance. The Australians.

The wines are still fruity and oak still has a role to play but winemakers are using less oak or larger barrels, they’re picking their grapes a little earlier so the sugars are lower resulting in less alcohol and a fresher finish and they’re focusing on Chardonnay grown in cooler climates and at higher altitudes which almost guarantees a new generation of Chardonnay that is fresh, elegant and moreish.

If you look at the facts Chardonnay never really went away. According to a report released by The Future Laboratory 18% of people in the UK are openly drinking more Chardonnay than they were a year ago. There’s been a rise in popularity of Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc but together with Chardonnay they have an equal share of the UK’s white wine heart, with 8% each of the market. I see Chardonnay as the mars bar of the wine world. While everyone’s talking about their 70% cocoa stash of Green & Blacks in their desk drawer, they’re secretly looking forward to ripping open the wrapper of their slightly squished handbag mars bar on the way home. Only they won’t tell anyone.

It must be true because Chardonnay is still the number one selling white wine in the world and the second most planted white grape variety in the world, after Spain’s little known Airen. It also happens to be the UK’s 2,717th favourite girls name..…. So you see it never really went away.

It goes without saying that it’s the only white grape variety permitted to produce Chablis and of the three grapes used to produce Champagne it is the only white one. But you knew that already didn’t you.

Hardys, a surprisingly ancient Australian winery has set the momentum going with their ‪#AllAboutChardonnay campaign which they asked me to be a part of and they produce a new generation Chardonnay that’s really worth trying. William Hardy’s Chardonnay 2013* from South Australia is made from predominantly cool climate grapes from Padthaway, McLaren Vale and some warm climate grapes from Riverland. It is perfumed with aromas of fruit pastilles, citrus fruits, mango, ripe peaches, ripe melon and a light spicy oakiness. Its texture is voluptuous but has a refreshing streak on the finish that characterises all good new style Chardies. Open a bottle now, I bet it’ll go with whatever you’re serving: roast chicken, Japanese dishes including sushi, full flavoured fish in a rich buttery sauce, turkey, roast beef, lamb, hard nutty cheeses…. fish & chips. You see, worth giving it ago.

*Available from Tesco, RRP £8.99

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