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Chardonnay – A Comeback to Rival Rocky


Copy of the newsletter sent to subcribers to the Movies and Booze segment Moncreiff show on Newstalk 106-108FM on April 8th 2011.  Subscribe at winelist@newtalk.ie

Movies & Booze on Newstalk on the Moncreiff Show 8thApril 2011

Wine by The Gargle Guru Martin Moran MW

Manchester United beat Chelsea in the Champion’s League last Wednesday and while all the Red Devils’ Irish fans cheered there were plenty of others collectively known as ABUs (Anybody But United) whose hearts sank as Rooney slotted home the winner.

The wine world isn’t so different as Cabernet and Chardonnay were for years, you could say, the king and queen of grape varieties. They excel in their native French regions and have been copied, ie planted, all over the vinous world. Their relentless success though created something of a backlash with some consumers and critics styling themselves as ABCs (Anything But
Cabernet or Chardonnay). The problem for Chardonnay, in particular, was its ubiquitous nature – every country, A virtual A to Z from Austria to Zimbabwe was growing and selling it and the fact was that plenty of them were oaky,
bland and boring. They even named a character in the 2003 TV series ‘Footballers’ Wives’* after the grape while
Bridget Jones seemed to drink it instead of tea for breakfast. Anybody with any remote sense of cool switched off and bought something else. Pinot Grigio’s day in the spotlight was about to dawn, which is busy becoming almost as ubiquitous
and is even blander.

It’s time to then, I think, to rediscover Chardonnay. The classic examples, of course, never went away but the copycat ones have improved out of all recognition. The over oaked and over ripe tropical fruit bombs have pretty well disappeared. In their place we’re seeing more refreshing, lighter wines with less, if any, oak. Chardonnay from the New World these days tends to taste
of pear and peach rather than pineapple and melon and there’s rarely any chance of having to pick splinters out of your gums as the practice of fermenting with oak chips has all but ceased. The more expensive versions, fermented in oak barrels, tend to use fewer new barrels so the spicy vanilla character they contribute is less pervasive than ever and they’re getting harder to tell apart
stylistically from the original fancy French model.

Also, since the original Chardonnay girl Bridget Jones was first knocking it back new cooler climate regions making more refreshing styles have started sending wines here. If you see them, check out Chardonnay from Leyda, Casablanca, Bio Bio or Limari in Chile, from Tupengato in Argentina, in Australia from Tasmania, Margaret River, Yarra Valley or Adelaide Hills to name just a few or Otago or Martinborough in New Zealand. American versions tend to be expensive but can be very good. The wines of the north west from Oregon and Washington are especially good as are Sonoma, Carneros and Russian River in
California.

The grape’s home is Burgundy and all those famous names such as Chablis, Meursault, Macon, Corton Charlemagne and Montrachet are made using the variety and all are very different. Elsewhere in France there’s an ocean of it from the south under the label Vin de Pays d’Oc but my favourites come from Limoux, where grapes grown at cooler altitude give more refreshingly acidic and Chablis like results as shown with today’s tasting.

Even if you don’t like United, ABUs have to admit they’re good at what they do and it’s about time ABCs admitted the same about Chardonnay.

Wines Tasted on The Show

Domaine Begude ‘Le Bel Ange’ Chardonnay 2010, VdP d’Oc, €8 in Superquinn.
Grown at 1000ft in Limoux this unoaked Chardonnay also has a splash of Chenin Blanc and its deliciously crisp and fresh flavours are led by citrus and pear. A bargain alternative to Chablis. One of the star buys of the current Superquinn French sale. Great with oysters or stir-fried prawns.

Lone Range ‘Heretaunga’ Chardonnay 2009, Hawkes Bay, NZ, €11.49 in M & S.

A star turn at this week’s M & S press tasting. Made for them by this critic’s favourite New Zealand producer, Craggy Range. This is barrel fermented but it’s oh so subtle with the wood adding just a gentle nuttiness and creaminess to attractive light peach fruit. You might mistake it for a smart €15-20 Burgundy if it was served blind. Serve it with fish or chicken in a creamy sauce.

Wine News

Superquinn’s French sales is on at the moment. It’s virtually the same
as that last Octobe whichI reviewd on winerepublic.com. Dunnes too have a sale
on until April 12th. My advice is too ignore the alleged half price wines and pick up any of Gerard Bertand’s Art de Vivre
Corbieres/Minervois/Coteaux de Languedoc reds at €7 or their Portuguese reds.

Martin Moran MW

winerepublic.com
twitter.com/thegargleguru
thegargleguru.com

 

* in 2003 65 people in England & Wales called their daughter
Chardonnay or Chardonay (sic)! It was even 28 in 2008.

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