It’s the wine people seem to love to hate but with sales soaring in the last 12 months, Chardonnay is officially the grape comeback kid.
After having been the toast of the 1980s, Chardonnay fell so out of fashion that the expression A.B.C (Anything But Chardonnay) was coined.
“Back then, Chardonnay had overpowering oaky and buttery flavours which some people eventually grew tired of,” explained Christine Ricketts, Cellar Director at Cellarmasters, Australia’s largest direct supplier of wines in Australia.
Crisp wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio became the new favourites, and winemakers soon responded by making Chardonnay not to match the new flavours but to create styles with greater balance – with great results. According to Ricketts, Premium Chardonnay sales have been steadily increasing in the last five years, with sales soaring in the last 12 months.
“At Cellarmasters, we are seeing the biggest growth in premium Chardonnay, which is wines at $20 or more per bottle,” she said
According to Ricketts, many Aussie winemakers grow Chardonnay in cooler climates such as the Limestone Coast region, Tumbarumba or Tasmania to take advantage of the long, slow ripening and retention of natural acidity. Many avoid or use a lot of reticence when it comes to long oak maturation and malolactic fermentation, which are processes that support the development of fuller, richer flavours.
“The Chardonnay grape itself is very versatile, so wine makers are using it to create wines with a broader appeal. Today, most Chardonnay notes range from lightly or non-oaked citrusy flavours to integrated oak and peaches and cream,” she said.
Located in Tasmania’s Coal River Valley, winemaker Ian Roberts of Riversdale Estate says he has seen a “noticeable increase” in Chardonnay demand among wine lovers.
His multiaward winning Riversdale Estate Crater Tasmania Chardonnay has flavours such as melons, white peaches and grapefruit, and he credits its success to the unique terroir.
“Riversdale Estate is in a very special micro-climate, fronting Pittwater and gets all day sun. Our vines are up to 27 years old and provide excellent wine grapes for the style of Chardonnay wine drinkers today are looking to consume,” he says.
To celebrate International Chardonnay Day on May 25 with award-winning, contemporary Chardonnay, head to Cellarmasters.com.au.
3 things you didn’t know about Chardonnay
The grape flavour is mild
Don’t like Chardonnay? Chances are high you just don’t like the way it has been made. The Chardonnay grape itself is quite neutral in taste, and the oaky and buttery flavours often associated with it comes from the wine making process.
It can grow almost anywhere
The grape variety originated in the Burgundy region of eastern France, but today Chardonnay is one of the most planted grape varieties around the world because it has an ability to grow almost anywhere.
Champers & Chablis are made of chardy
Chardonnay is one of the top three major grape varietals grown in the Champagne region in France, and is one of the varietals used when making champagne. Chablis, Mauzac and Montrachet are other notable wines made from chardonnay grapes.