Does the Anything But Chardonnay club still exist? It shouldn’t. Those that still regard themselves as members are really missing out. Chardonnay is without doubt the most exciting white wine style in Australia, possibly globally and it’s not a case of everything that is old is new again – chardonnay is reborn in a new style with restraint, freshness, complexity and texture.
The dinosaur style
Gone are the days of lots of oak, lots of butterscotch, lots of over-ripe tropical fruit. That chardonnay style is a dinosaur. That’s not to say that they don’t exist but I don’t think they are representative of chardonnay and the best of its kind. The ABC club existed because wine producers were slow to perceive a change in consumer preference. Consumers grew tired of that full on style and wine producers failed to evolve the chardonnay style. Consumers then turned their back on chardonnay and some have never come back to it.
Rebirth of style
In the last decade, especially the last five years, wine producers have seen the errors of their ways. They have sourced cool-climate fruit, picked grapes a bit earlier (not so ripe), backed off with the use of new oak and sourced better quality oak. They have been thinking outside the square and have had the courage to break with standard winemaking practices. Wild yeast fermentation, retaining grape solids in juice, and reduced malolactic fermentation influence have all contributed to the rebirth of style. Modern chardonnay has greater freshness from natural acidity (cool-climate and picking earlier), more subtle but more complex fruit flavours (picking earlier with citrus, grapefruit, guava, nectarine flavours, not mango and rockmelon), subtle complexities underneath the fruit (bready, nut, nougat, matchstick) and captivating palate textures that glide the flavours across the tongue. So if you are hanging onto your membership card to the ABC club, throw it in the bin and revel in the rebirth of chardonnay.
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