So you think you don’t like … chardonnay
The second in our series on learning to love the food and drink you think you loathe …
Picture by lithian at shutterstock.com
How on earth did chardonnay come to be so vilified? I get more people telling me they dislike it than almost any other grape variety, even much maligned merlot.
Which is ironic as it goes to make some of the world’s greatest white wines. (Heard of Corton Charlemagne or Bâtard Montrachet? No? Well, Meursault maybe?)
And, of course, Chablis which most people who say they don’t like chardonnay generally like but often don’t realise what grape it’s made from.
Think back to the early 90s - if you’re that old - and everyone was crazy about it so what went wrong?
It just got a bit pumped up. I guess the thinking was - everyone loves chardonnay so let’s make it MORE chardonnay-like. Bigger, richer, fatter, more oaky…. So that it no longer became a refreshing drink but almost a food in itself.
Some people like it like that, mind you, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Majestic tells me their Californian Bread & Butter chardonnay just flies out.
But if you’ve foresworn chardonnay for the last few years how do you fall back in love with it? Here’s how:
Be picky about where your chardonnay comes from
Photo © Jean-Jacques Cordier at fotolia.com
Avoid chardonnay from hotter wine producing regions like California’s central coast, Argentina and South Australia and look for what’s referred to as ‘cool climate chardonnay’. Chablis, white burgundy from the Côte de Beaune rather than the Mâconnais to the south, the Limoux region of the Languedoc, coastal areas of Chile like Limari, the Hemel en Aarde area of South Africa, most of New Zealand, England - yes, England, believe it or not. We produce some great chardonnay these days. Even Australia which you may regard as the home to the kind of chardonnay you dislike has cool climate regions like the Adelaide HIlls, Margaret River, Mornington Peninsula and Tasmania.
Drink it young and unoaked
Not that oak is bad per se - most of the best chardonnays are aged in oak but cheap barrels or oak treatments (winemakers often use chips or staves to cut costs) often taste overly woody. And as inexpensive chardonnay ages it tends to become progressively fatter and flabbier (don’t we all?) so if you don’t like rich chardonnay drink it young.
Watch the alcohol
Stands to reason that 13.5% is going to be fresher than 14% or 14.5%. Right?
Spend a bit more on it
You already know this but the more you spend on wine the more goes into the liquid in the bottle and the less, proportionately, on tax and duty. More expensive chardonnay isn’t guaranteed to be to your taste but it’s more likely to have a bit of refinement and elegance.
That said the suggestions below are not expensive . . .
State your preference
Tell whoever’s selling it to you the kind of chardonnay you like - or don’t like. If you’re thinking of pulling a chardonnay off the shelf or ordering one in a restaurant ask if it’s heavily oaked. (A good reason to shop in an independent wine merchant where someone will happily have that kind of discussion with you.)
Drink it with the right kind of food
Chardonnay loves roast chicken, for example, and lobster and scallops and virtually anything with a creamy or buttery sauce. Oh, and roasted butternut squash and sweetcorn. So many things. Here’s a whole list of pairings.
5 wines to change your mind about chardonnay