There’s a very well known joke amongst us wine geeks about someone ordering a bottle of white wine at a restaurant. “Oh no, I don’t want any Chardonnay, can’t stand the stuff, I’ll take a bottle of Chablis!” Alright, so you’re not exactly reaching for the string to tie your sides back together, but obviously the (rather lame) joke is that Chablis is Chardonnay. Sorry for the shit joke, but point being is that people have this thing about not liking Chardonnay.
There are these funny people out there called the ABCers, meaning Anything But Chardonnay. I kind of understand where they’re getting at. I don’t agree with them, but I get their point. Back in the 60s through to the 90s you had all the New World countries (pretty much all of them) producing Chardonnay, and going mental with oak ageing or artificially adding oak flavours. Oaking basically thickens the body of the wine, and adds smokey vanilla flavours. Amazing if done well, nearly undrinkable if messed up.
The US, and California in particular, was one of the major culprits. A guy called Nigel, who runs the Felton Road winery in NZ, once told me of going to a tasting day of US Chardonnays and coming out of there with the impression he’d just given Pinocchio a blowjob! Well luckily for us (and maybe unluckily for Pinocchio) the producers are starting to change their tune.
You can now buy fruity, non-oaked Chardonnays, sat proudly on the shelves next to their oaked cousins. It’s the choice of the two that will get the consumers back again, and hopefully push producers to doing the right thing with their grapes, rather than just following that set wooden path. So time to try them again!
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