The chameleon grape. When mentioned, the juxtaposed images of cougars at the local middle-aged hotspot wine bar drinking the latest butter bomb with gobs of tropical fruit and oak, whilst somms and geeks ‘in the know’ are ravishing Raveneau, eschewing quotes of ‘minerality and purity of terroir’…
Therein lies the reason why it is revered and reviled. It is all things to all people. No wonder it is more popular than Pinot Grigio, more planted than any other variety on earth save Airen. And, who the f’;* on earth ever talks about Airen? Airen is the real life Sue Silvestre, a mean, conniving small town wench that lives vicariously (hello, Cheerios)through the real face of its’ end product; Brandy.
Yes, I used a ‘Glee’ analogy. Sue me. Pardon the pun.
Chardonnay is the accidental offspring of Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc, a variety so old that it never was cool. However, the wonderful Pinot turned this one night stand into something magical. A new variety was born, and white wines everywhere have something to aspire to. A grape that can withstand oak, employ malolactic conversion without losing fruit, and can grow in a number of soils, regions, and climates while keeping typicity. Pretty cool…freaking cool if you ask me.
I am not saying that overblown, highly alcoholic Chardonnay sucks. There are some fantastic wines made in this fashion and style. I am saying it isn’t my bag, baby. It is easy to discount Chardonnay, though; we say that it’s passe, Assyrtiko is the wave of the future, oak aged Viura is so much more…interesting.
The reality is, you won’t see a million cases of White Rioja being sold in the United States of America, unless it tastes and looks like many Chardonnays in the current marketplace. It may change, but not anytime soon.
Viva la Chard!