Have you written off Chardonnay? Too oaky or too heavy? Would you rather have a glass of Sauvignon Blanc instead?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. The last few decades haven’t been kind to poor Chardonnay. For so long it’s been the grape that many wine consumers have loved to hate thanks to the influx of cheaply oaked versions from the New World. You know the style – oodles of vanilla and smoke!
I was firmly in the A.B.C. camp until a few years ago – Anything But Chardonnay! Thankfully, times are changing and those heavy, over-oaked styles are becoming a thing of the past as winemakers around the globe turn to Burgundy for inspiration. For here, in the spiritual home of Chardonnay, the wines are more subtle and precise, balancing crisp fruit flavours with delicate oak to create some of the finest (and longest-living) white wines in the world.
We wine consumers now have the opportunity to rekindle our love for this noble grape. After all, Chardonnay is one of the most widely grown grape varieties on the planet: from classic regions like France, California and Australia to the more unusual, such as China and Japan. If a country has a wine industry, chances are it is growing Chardonnay.
Some grapes varieties are rather picky, only growing in particular locations. Others are relaxed and thrive in a variety of climates. Chardonnay is definitely among the latter. It’s one of the most versatile grapes in the world.
And there is a style of Chardonnay for everyone!
Grown in cooler climates, Chardonnay makes a crisp and zesty wine - think of steely Chablis from France, for example. Perfect for oysters on the half-shell with a squirt of lemon.
In hotter climates, this wine becomes more full-bodied, with tropical fruit notes. Napa, anyone? These Chardonnays pair well with something a little more robust like teriyaki-glazed salmon with a pineapple chutney.
Some Chardonnays see absolutely no oak while others can be fermented or aged in oak. Along with the fruit flavours of the wine, oaked Chardonnay can take on buttery, creamy characteristics. This style of wine cries out for a rich dish like butter-poached lobster.
No matter what style you prefer, it's about balance and elegance. Isn’t it time that we celebrate all that’s delicious about Chardonnay?
After all, Chardonnay is the white grape of Champagne. Pass the bubbles!