It’s hard to believe it now, but Chardonnay producers in the 90’s must have felt that they could do no wrong; such was the demand for this now much-maligned grape variety.
For the consumer though it was definitely a case of getting too much of a good thing, both in volume terms and stylistically.
The grape is so easy to grow in many climates that it was produced in huge volumes — and often the quality fell.
Added to this was Chardonnay’s natural affinity with Oak, this pairing when handled with a little subtlety is responsible for some of the finest white wines on the planet.
However as the runaway train that was Chardonnay was careering over the edge of a sales cliff, subtlety was in very short supply, with many being over-oaked to such a degree that hardly any varietal character remained.
Eventually it came to be associated with the mantra “ABC” — Anything But Chardonnay.
Indeed there are many who insist they’re “ABC” then ask for a Chablis or Mâcon, both of which are made with Chardonnay grapes.
To select a wine, while entirely writing off one of the world’s greatest (and most widely planted) grape varieties is to deny oneself the chance to taste some of the most delicious wines being made today.
Most modern versions are aged in stainless steel tanks, not oak barrels, and are crisp and refreshing, in tune with our current preference for Sauvignon Blanc.
So why not make 2014 the year to put prejudice aside and try one of the Chardonnays below, I think that you will find yourself pleasantly surprised.
Brocard Petit Chablis (€14.99 down from €15.99) One of the great names in Chablis, Jean Marc Brocard makes stunning Petit Chablis that is easily as good, if not better, than many of his rival’s main line Chablis. Fantastic pure, clean, crisp apple fruit, great minerality and a lingering finish.
Cave de Lugny Mâcon-Lugny (€12.99 down from €15.49) This is classic Mâcon Burgundy and is easily one of the best examples the region produces. Ample peach and pear fruit, good structure and a long dry finish. This is the perfect all-round white wine drink with or without food.
Domaine de l'Aigle Chardonnay (€17.99 down from €19.49) This barrel aged Chardonnay from the Languedoc clearly shows the advantage of high altitude vineyards. There is a cool elegance of fruit to this wine and with a creamy feel balanced by fine acidity it tastes and feels like a very expensive wine.
Craigmoor Chardonnay (€9.99 down from €13.99) Forget about the over-oaked Aussie Chardonnays of old, this delicious fruit-driven wine with its distinctive aromas of ripe peach and melon and subtle nuances of oak shows just how good Australian Chardonnay can be when handled correctly!