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Why Chardonnay is back in vogue

As suppliers of wines to restaurants, bars and hotels it has been evident in recent years that Chardonnay has fallen out of favour with the general British palate. This noble grape through no fault of its own has been subjected to unfair criticism and disapproval. Anything But Chardonnay – also referred to as “ABC” was a fashionable way of rendering this fine grape as having had its day and not worthy of a second chance. There are those who “love Chablis but would never drink Chardonnay” often stated by wine drinkers who clearly do not know that Chablis is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes.

So what precisely has caused the decline in popularity? Think back to Australia’s grand entrance in to the UK market some 30 years ago and the wooded Chardonnays that were on offer from the likes of Jacob’s Creek which were delightfully fruity, yes – but horribly cloying on the palate (due to the misuse of oak and using staves instead of barrels to give the full bodied hit).

Happily Australian wine makers have come to realise the error of their ways due to a rapid fall in sales and are now making some beautifully balanced Chardonnays having taken lessons from the French.

At last, the wine-drinking public are now giving Chardonnay another chance and popularity is growing although more particularly so with wines that are marketed as ‘unoaked’.

One of my current favourites is Ardeche Chardonnay from Louis Latour (famous for their Burgundy classics) however this brand is from the South of France. Maison Louis Latour decided in the 70’s that they would need to look outside of Burgundy to find alternative sources of high quality Chardonnay grapes. A bold move at the time, but a very wise decision.

The 2015 vintage of this wine has crisp acidity with delicious flavours of green apple and lime freshness. It is a fresh and appealing wine with considerable depth and has a Burgundian quality.

I often describe this wine on restaurant wine lists as ‘pure class in a glass’.

At less than a tenner a bottle – I highly recommend this to every wine drinker who needs to re-ignite their passions with this wonderful noble grape.

Ardèche Chardonnay

Region: Coteaux de l’Ardèche

Grape variety: Chardonnay

Average vine age: 25 years

Soil: Clay and limestone

Harvest: Mechanical

Cellaring Potential: 2-3 years

Serving temperature: 10-12°

Fermentation: Traditional in stainless steel vats, temperature controlled with complete malolactic fermentation

Ageing: 8 to 10 months ageing in stainless steel vats

Wine pairing tips

Tannins require fat: Tannins, the sharp component in red wine that gives the fluid structure, needs fat to help balance and soften the wine’s strong tannins after-taste.

Fish goes with acids: We have all heard the old rule of: White Wine for White Meat, Red Wine for Red Meat. The reason for that is acid and tannins, not colour. If you are serving fish, think of the wine as you would a squeeze of lemon on top (high acid wine) rather than a sprinkle of cheese (tannin heavy red wine).

Match Wine with Sauce: Identify the dominant character; more often it is the sauce, rather than the main ingredient.

Spice asks for sugar: The sweetness of the wine is offset by the spice in the food and instead of tasting sweet, you taste the delicious fruit in the wine instead. If you were hoping for your meal to turn out a bit spicier, try pairing the dish with a red wine with lots of tannins to boost the heat.

Make sweet even sweeter: Sometimes, especially when indulging in a nice dessert, you may crave your wine to be even sweeter than the slice of chocolate cake on your plate. In that case, order a glass of white wine with more acid content to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Pairing cheat sheet

Champagne: Pair champagne with anything salty. Because most dry sparkling wines are a touch on the sweet side they pair particularly well with salty foods.

Sauvignon Blanc: Opt for Sauvignon Blanc when pairing a dish with a tart dressing or sauce.

Pinot Grigio: Pairs well with light fish dishes.

Chardonnay: Go for the Chard when pairing wine with fatty fish or fish in a rich sauce.

Off-Dry Riesling: Pairs well with sweet and spicy dishes. Riesling is a great dish to balance out spicy Asian and Indian dishes.

Moscato d’Asti: This sweet sparkling wine goes great with a fruity dessert.

Rosé Champagne: Looking for a great crowd pleaser that works with pretty much anything? This is it.

Dry Rosé: For rich, cheesy dishes, dry rosé is a great choice.

Pinot Noir: Think earthy flavours when trying to pair your Pinot Noir, and ingredients like mushrooms and truffles.

Malbec: This bold wine goes great with sweet-spicy barbecue sauces.

Zinfandel: Zinfandels are rustic and rich and go great with pâtés, mousses, and terrines.

Cabernet Sauvignon: You can’t go wrong with Cabernet Sauvignon and a juicy red meat.

Syrah: Syrah goes well with highly spiced dishes.