Why Chardonnay Is Making A Comeback

It's the grape that's ripe for a revival 

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Chardonnay’s had a bit of a bad rep over the past few years.

Associated, as it became, with Bridget Jones and Footballer’s Wives, you wouldn’t exactly think of ordering a bottle if you were out to impress.

But the grape is ripe for a revamp, with wine buffs and buyers getting back behind the maligned white.

We asked wine tasting expert, Belinda Stone, for her thoughts on the comeback. 

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ESQ: Why did customers go off Chardonnay?

BS: Consumers fell out of love with Chardonnay because it became too much of a good thing. Chardonnay was everywhere; it went from a wine enthusiast’s favourite to a mainstream commercial commodity. People tend to blame Bridget Jones more; Chardonnay had already seen its heyday by the time Footballers’ Wives came out. But I think it was the coining of the phrase A.B.C. (Anything But Chardonnay) that put the nail in the coffin: people remembered it and unfortunately it just stuck.

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ESQ: Can it ever be a man’s drink?

BS: Chardonnay creates such a spectrum of styles including some of the finest white wines in the world and some of the best everyday drinking wines too, it’s just as much for men as it is for women.

ESQ: So what has happened recently to bring back demand?

BS: Winemakers of the previously oaky, butterscotch style of Chardonnay which is what went out of fashion have responded to the rise in popularity of a fresher style of white like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio by creating Chardonnay that is leaner and more elegant with less oak. In the warmer Chardonnay producing countries like Australia they've been more selective with where the Chardonnay is grown, focusing more on cooler climates, which produces wines that are less alcoholic, less heavy in style and fresher as a result.

ESQ: What should we be looking for in a Chardonnay?

BS: Chardonnay is an extremely versatile grape that reflects the region it's been grown in and the winemaking techniques that have been used on it. As such there's not really a one size fits all formula to look out for. But modern Chardonnays should all have one thing in common and that is an expression of balance, fruitiness and freshness.

ESQ: Does that mean it works with food?

BS: Yes, there is a Chardonnay to suit every season and pretty much every dish. Light, cool climate fresh examples of Chardonnay like Chablis will go well with seafood and fish. Richer, oakier styles go well with creamy dishes like Carbonara and a British favourite Fish & Chips. An all-round winner for any type of Chardonnay is roast chicken. The fresher, younger, unoaked styles are great for quaffing on their own and some of the more complex and intense Chardonnays like Eileen Hardy Chardonnay is such a mouthful, it’s almost a meal in itself!

ESQ: Any favourites?

BS: My favourite for value for money has to be William Hardy Chardonnay. It's a blend of cool and warm climate fruit, a hint of oak influence and a fruitiness and freshness that all good Chardonnay should have. My favourite to splash the cash is the iconic Eileen Hardy Chardonnay –  if you can get your hands on it that is.

ESQ: So Chardonnay is a hot topic at the moment?

BS: Wine buffs never really turned their backs on Chardonnay and nor has the general wine-drinking public. They may not say it out loud but imports of Australian Chardonnay to the UK have grown from 7.7m bottles in 1990 to 340.9m bottles in 2012, so someone’s drinking it!

hardyswines.com