Anything But Chardy!
What a decade the 90s was! A quick poll in the office had my colleagues recalling happy pants, grunge, MC Hammer, 90210, mobile phones, the twilight of the Hawke/Keating era, Monica Lewinsky and of course... Chardonnay. It’s important to note that Chardonnay was here well before the 90s but this was the decade it was introduced to us, the masses, in two very distinct phases – wooded and unwooded. The wooded era came to us in the early 90s when many of the larger companies were serving up Chardonnay so cloaked in oak flavour and so oily in texture that the variety itself was lost in the noise. I kept hearing descriptors like ‘coconut and vanilla’ to describe the nose and ‘sweet’ to describe the taste. This was a time where we got to learn more about the application of oak in all its forms (chips and barrels) and residual sugar added in spoonfuls. Inevitably the overcorrection came where suddenly producers were scrambling to unleash their unwooded Chardonnay on us. This polarised Chardonnay drinkers more than VHS and Beta ever did but front of mind was always Chardonnay in whatever form it came in. Sadly, many of these unwooded wannabes looked more like Sauvignon Blanc and once again the true varietal character of Chardonnay remained hidden from the drinking public. Chardonnay By the time the early 2000s came around, Sauvignon Blanc seized its chance and became the preferred drink to an emerging drinking set known as the ABCs (Anything But Chardonnay). Whilst Chardonnay didn’t disappear from our shelves, the confusion created in the 90s made new white drinkers more reluctant to try Chardonnay and to this day I still see the ABC movement alive and well at tastings and lunches. What many ABCs have missed is the renaissance in Chardonnay winemaking - a result of local innovation, research and experience in wine regions that have made Chardonnay for centuries. There is now a plethora of brilliantly made, complex and beautifully balanced Chardonnay on the market that I’ve had the pleasure of serving up to clients, friends, family and most importantly, the ABCs. Modern Australian Chardonnay now leads with fruit first supported by a combination of judiciously applied oak, oxidative handling, lees stirring and more.