How do you classify chardonnay? At the moment, it seems that there are only three ways;
1) ABC (Anything But Chardonnay)
Do you avoid chardonnay like the plague, do you love your buttery liquid gold? Do you embrace it as the wine-chameleon it can be? There has been a recent, and even less recent tide of comments predicting the return to favour of chardonnay with Australian consumers. Is the sauvignon blanc bubble going to burst into a fire of a thousand sunny, bright and fruity chardonnays?
Chardonnay is one of the most versatile varieties available to winemaking. It is difficult to divide this large wine market into two clear styles of wood or no wood, especially now as many chardonnay producers are straddling the divide between the extremities. The potential for variation under the same labelled variety can easily lead any uninitiated wine drinker down the path of an ABC disaster.
Is the chardonnay you are buying fruity and fresh? Is it from a warm or cool climate yielding a high or lower alcohol? Has it been inoculated with yeast encouraging aromatics and clean flavours, or allowed to proceed with indigenous yeast adding more minerality and texture. Did it ferment in stainless steel, old or new barriques? Was there any lees contact, did batonnage occur? Was malolactic fermentation inhibited, partially or fully embraced? The questions are endless!
I recently heard a distributer refer to a chardonnay being measured ‘out of ten’. Ten being an unabashedly oaky, buttery, lees stirred wine moving downwards in proportion to body, texture and oak handling before a grade of one is given to the fruit forward, crisp, steel-fermented release.
There are good wines across the whole spectrum of chardonnay! If consumers know which end of the out-of-ten spectrum they prefer, it could become (more) easy to select their new favourite food companion!
Maybe I’m just messing around, but here is an attempt to fill in the blanks between 1 and 10.
2. Goundrey Unwooded, WA. (One of the biggest selling wines in Australia)
4. De Bortoli Estate, Yarra Valley, VIC
5. Ashton Hills, Adelaide Hills, SA
7. Sorrenburg, Beechworth, VIC
10. Leeuwin Art Series, Margaret River, WA
Feel free to heckle, re-order or add to my choices below.