The Most Misunderstood and Often Vilified Grape: Chardonnay

Why is Chardonnay Still Misunderstood?  And well vilified wine grape variety?

I recently read a Tweet that said something to the affect: “I am not a classic Chardonnay drinker” I was intrigued….what does that mean?

Well Chardonnay is still mis-understood—or at least the myth of Chardonnay in a certain style is still perpetuated.  I actually don’t know what “classic Chardonnay” means – is it highly oaked?  Buttery?  Or does it mean stainless or neutral barrique?  I don’t think heavy oak or heavy malolactic fermentation as “classic.”

I prefer to stand away because I do think at least with North American Chardonnay drinkers are not worrying about too much oak or even MLF.  I think most high quality producers have pulled away from considerable oak or MLF for at least a half a generation.  Using a phrase like “classic” is confusing because what is the basis for “classic.”?  Also perhaps this person mean Chablis as classic?  Too hard to tell and yet Chardonnay is still vilified needlessly.

Then there are those who think of Chardonnay as only an inert wine grape variety.  Chardonnay is still the most widely planted of white wine grape varieties – 400,000 acres / 160,000 hectares.  Chardonnay is a work horse wine grape with a touch of elegance.  Chardonnay does matter in terms of a still or sparkling state.  There are no two Chardonnays that are exactly the same.  Chardonnay presents an opportunity to pair with a wide variety of foods.   Chardonnay adds weight and texture and is a necessary and needed wine grape variety in the library of all white wine grapes.  It is a needed white wine variety with no necessary classic interpretation–it would be a mistake to interpret California Chardonnay of a generation ago as classic–that experience will not land itself in terms of positive distinction but a blimp on the radar–once there and now gone.

I have grown so tired of ABC “Anything But Chardonnay” which induces an immediate ennui–so it not just tires me –it is a less commonly used phrase. If Chardonnay were suddenly not available I do think we would have a large hole in our wine canon.




James the Wine Guy

Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.

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