Anything but Chardonnay or ABC as it is also known, is a term we hear from time to time and has been around for the last 20 years or so. Personally, I am a massive fan of the Chardonnay grape and for me it produces some of the best wines there are. If anyone ever wants to buy me a treat then a top notch Chassagne Montrachet would always be high up on my list!
It is one of the three grapes used in Champagne, alongside Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, and is the only grape used to make white wines from Burgundy. In France, South Africa and USA it can produce big and beautiful wines which are both rich and subtle and there are plenty of great examples from many wine producing countries. It has great versatility and can vary widely in flavour and style. To taste a rich, buttery and well oaked classic Burgundian such as a Chassagne Montrachet alongside a fruit driven tropical, unoaked style from a warmer climate like Australia would make you think they were not from the same grape if you hadn’t tried them before
So Why the Hate?
It started back in the 1990’s. Chardonnay had a surge in popularity in the 1980’s which continued in to the 90’s. As wine continued to grow, Chardonnay was one of the leading lights in this rise and Australia in particular led the way with a new wave of easy drinking and affordable wines. As the race to increase production and keep the price down gathered pace, there was an influx of wines that were a pale imitation of the classic styles found in Burgundy.
Techniques such as ‘staving’ or ‘chipping’ were used to give flavours of oak by inserting blocks of wood into stainless steel tanks or dropping in bags of wood chippings in like tea bags. Doesn’t exactly inspire thoughts of a beautifully well-structured wine. At first this style was very successful but as it was imitated by more and more producers, it became over-used and people got bored with tasting oak rather than grape.
Is It Still Popular?
In a word, yes. It is still the most popular grape variety for producing white wine around the world, recent surveys have put it second in the UK behind Sauvignon Blanc in popularity. Chardonnay is a varietal grown in pretty much every wine producing country, incredibly adaptable to different climates and conditions it has been a leading light in the growth of New World wines over the years.
How To Pick A Good One?
To make it easy we have selected a few wines which we think showcase the brilliance of Chardonnay and also the great value it can give.