The chardonnay grape never really went away, it’s just having its own brand of renaissance and we haven’t had to wait around for centuries to see the result. In the eighties and nineties, wine drinkers in Australia could not get enough chardonnay. We loved the big flavours and aromas that were easy to recognise in a line up. The flavours got bigger and bigger and increasingly buttery, overtly oaked and full bodied. You can see where I am going here… chardonnay got too big headed and lost hearts along the way.
Enter the breath of fresh air … er… acid in the guise of Marlborough sauvignon blanc. The fruit was bright and clean compared to the buttery tropical fruit of the chardonnay available. The aromas of passionfruit when ripe or gooseberry or capsicum when not are unmistakable and, again, are reliably easy to recognise. A comfort to those who are less confident with their wine choices.
Incidentally, these wines can be so pronounced in intensity that aromas can be identified from a good foot from the glass. They have also started to get sharper in acid, bigger in flavour and aroma and sweeter on the palate. Just like chardonnay, the tide is beginning to turn against the ‘passion fashion’ that is the flamboyant side of sauvignon blanc.
While it would be easy to say that chardonnay developed a new style, that is not quite true. More correctly, we have gone back to doing our chardonnay in the more traditional style taking and remembering how important food is to the equation of getting the best out of the wine in your glass.
A noticeable drop in the levels of oak, butter and over ripe tropical fruit in chardonnay started to appear mid 2000s. The elegance that was, and can be, chardonnay was on the way back. Although the best chardonnay producers simply continued making their wine in their own way as they weren’t following fashion anyway. However, it has taken a long time to convince drinkers who swore never to touch it again, that chardonnay is again the Queen of the wine world.
Here are five reasons why:
– It is a wine that makes an impact! On food that is. The often savoury spice characters of chardonnay make this a versatile wine that will match anything from lightly grilled seafood for a lighter style, through to roast turkey for a fully rich style.
– It has a generous soul and when it is done well, offers fresh crisply ripe fruit with plenty of flavour, often with a citrus backbone and layers of complexityto enjoy with or without food.
– Everyone has an opinion! Next time you rock up to a friends place with a bottle of great chardonnay to share, it will certainly get conversation flowing.
– It is like the little black dress. So chardonnay had a dip in popularity, but is such a classic that nothing could hold it down.
– When done well, they are wines to savour. They are wines to take your time with.
If you are looking for inspiration, here are a few to start with.
Hungerford Hill Vinefire 2012 Chardonnay ($18) – A soft, fruity, modern chardonnay that will fit the ticket for a week night dinner with friends. Creamy melon and stonefruit fragrance lifts in the glass and the palate is round and ripe finishing fresh, soft and juicy.
Savaterre Chardonnay 2010 ($70) – The mouthfilling texture of this chardonnay is incredibly more-ish. The aromas of pineapple brulee sprinkled with cinnamon are backed up with some ripe peach on the palate and the finish is soft, juicy and creamy. A wine that will deliver its savoury heart to you with each sip.
Lisa has an infectious enthusiasm for all things vinous. She is a wine educator, writer and wine business consultant who has a fascination for the ever changing nature of wine and the wine experience – in the vineyard, in the bottle and in the glass. An avid wine traveller, her plan is to visit every wine region in the world. She is also renowned for unrepentantly insisting that wine is opened at playdates – for the adults only, of course!
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