Chardonnay is often criticised, but modern winemakers are embracing new methods to highlight the grape’s natural qualities, says expert Sadie Wilkins
Often referred to as the ‘queen of white grapes,’ Chardonnay has been given a tough time over the past 20 years. Why? Mostly due to the misguided practices of some wine producers who prioritised quantity over quality. From oak and vanilla powder to over-extraction, it seemed to be a constant quest to over-oak and cut corners while doing so. But as with many things in life, you can’t let the bad behaviour of a few ruin it for the majority. Chardonnay is a versatile grape variety with a rich history and a vast potential for crafting exceptional wines across the globe. We’re here this month to sing from the rafters and pour (sorry) our hearts out in support of this luscious grape – a Chardonnay chorus, if you will.
Crimes of bad producers
Chardonnay was originally from the Burgundy region of France, where it has been cultivated for centuries. One of the best things about it is its ability to reflect its terroir (a combination of soil, climate, and geography). From the steely, mineral-driven Chablis to the opulent, buttery styles of California, Chardonnay’s adaptability has won us over. Did you know that when you are drinking a Blanc de Blanc Champagne you have Chardonnay in your glass?
Many winemakers now recognise the need to preserve Chardonnay’s purity and are taking steps to highlight its innate qualities rather than smother them in oak – and this is exactly where we recommend you start your new love affair with the grape – particularly if you have previously considered yourself to be an ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) wine drinker. We’re not saying you are wrong – there is no right or wrong in wine, you like what you like – but we’d love to help more folk give this wondrous grape a chance, and not put it on trial for the crimes of bad producers.
She’s a diva date
There are so many makers now employing minimal oak ageing, or even opting for stainless steel or concrete fermentation, letting the grape’s natural fruit flavours and acidity shine through. They are creating wines of finesse and elegance – with true fruity appeal. Whether fermented and aged in oak barrels, concrete eggs or clay amphorae, it’s Chardonnay’s flexibility (we’ve always said wine drinking is an exercise!) that allows it to be crafted into a range of expressions.
To us, Chardonnay is more like the diva date of white wines – with her golden hues and rich, velvety texture, she’s the star of any gathering. Don’t be fooled by her high maintenance reputation – Chardonnay is a true crowd-pleaser. She knows how to bring the party to life with her crisp acidity and refreshing finish, plus she’s versatile enough to pair with anything from grilled fish to creamy pasta dishes.
- Time to taste!
Explore your palate and find new grapes to love at
The Sherborne Wine & Spirit Fest – our big charity event where you can sample more than 200 products.
Find out more HERE.