Food & Wine
Is it OK to like chardonnay or is that asking to be ostracised? Friends groan and roll their eyes when I order it. I'm tired of being made to drink sauvignon blanc that smells like box hedge.
Let me tell you the sorry story of an aristocratic Frenchwoman who ventured to the colonies, found fame and fortune, and - for a time - fell into the wrong crowd. Our heroine, who we'll call Chardonnay, had elegance and impeccable lineage that shone in everything from chablis to champagne. This versatility made her a great traveller and we fell in love with her.
But between the late '80s and late '90s, she fell into the hands of corporate stylists who wanted to amp up her popular appeal. They gave her the vinous equivalent of a tandoori tan and spiral perm: too much sunshine, too much cheap and nasty oak.
By the noughties, she was hanging out in a Fountain Lakes spa with Kath and Kim under the alias ''Kar-donn-ay''.
Poor Chardy was denounced as declasse, booted off bottle-shop shelves faster than you can say ''sauvignon blanc''.
Shunned by the masses, she returned to the embrace of discerning folk: drinkers and winemakers who always understood that this grape is most elegant when ripened slowly; that handling in the winery must be thoughtful; and oak, where it's used, should be French, discreet and of the highest quality.
Fashion in wine is cyclical. For a while, a lot of chardonnays looked like Audrey Hepburn in a Von Dutch baseball cap - gorgeous gone bogan. Now, she's back being dressed by Givenchy - classy and delicious.
So yes, it's definitely ok to like chardonnay. But your eye-rolling friends may be haunted by cheap and oaky memories, so get them started on some of the fresher, zestier chardonnays on the market now.
Look for examples grown in cool climates, where the fruit character should be less overtly ripe and the wine's natural acid drives the bus while oak sits in the back seat.
Finally, be patient. It can only be a matter of time before the foxy morons are seen swilling ''savvy blonk'' and the tide, as it must, will turn.
- Good Food
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