What happened to Chardonnay? What did this wonderfully diverse wine varietal do to make everyone hate it so much?
ABC, “Anything but Chardonnay”, I hear this all the time. I don’t think people even know why they hate it so much. I also don’t think they know why they are drinking so much NZ Sav Blanc!
I have my own theories about the demise of Chardonnay. The episode of the fabulous Aussie ABC comedy, Kath & Kim where Kim demands a glass of “cardonnay”, (“because it’s French and the H is silent”), was the kiss of death.
It had became so popular it was unpopular. A victim of it’s own success.
Once the quintessential bogans had declared their love for a glass of cardy, anyone even slightly aspirational immediately stopped buying it for fear of association with a rising bogan sub-culture. There’s even a Facebook page devoted to Kath & Kim and their love of Cardonnay.
It may also have had something to do with the overt “look at me, look at me” style of Australian Chardonnay in the early noughties. However I doubt it. How often these days does what’s in the bottle actually influence a purchasing decision? Only a very small portion of wine drinkers can identify any sort of meaningful preference for a varietal or region.
Which brings us to the question, do people really not like the way Chardonnay tastes (ludicrous, as it is undoubtedly the queen of all white wines) or has wine truly become what we all fear most, A Fast Moving Consumer Good. A product whose success or failure has no correlation to quality, authenticity product or provenance, but is instead judged by a combination of indecipherable metrics like, price, placement, perception and fashion.
If this is the case, how can Chardonnay be saved?
Australian Chardonnay is diverse, elegant, traditional, contemporary. There is a Chardonnay for every taste and every budget, so it’s not the flavour profile that’s the issue. “It’s noyce, it’s diff’rent, it’s un-ewes-ual”.
Our poor Chardonnay is suffering an image crisis and this is what we need to fix, not the technical aspects of the wine. (Point in case, I received this email recently about a Chardonnay workshop, to cover the following topic: What we know about Chardonnay clones and some of the new alternatives from a viticulture and winemaking perspective, growing Chardonnay and some of the issues associated with vine age, Chardonnay and spontaneous/natural ferments and other yeast options and the (r)evolution of the modern Australian Chardonnay style.)
Yes, great that best practise and improvement is being encouraged, but it won’t salvage the commercial failure of Australian Chardonnay (unless you make consumers sit through the seminar in question until they promise to drink Chardonnay!).
It is a truly mammoth marketing effort that is required. We need to change consumers and retailers perceptions. What we need is a serious image overhaul. Think along the lines of Posh Spice’s transformation into Victoria Beckham, a highly respected fashion designer.
So, how do we convince people that Chardonnay is cool?
It has to be so uncool that it becomes cool! “What are you saying? My belittling has bebigged you?,” Kath Day Night.
The Urban Dictionary defines Cool as: “The best way to say something is neat, awesome or swell. The phrase ‘cool’ is very relaxed, never goes out of style and people will never laugh at you for using it. Very convenient for people who don’t care about what’s ‘in’.”
It defines UNcool as: “Being yourself and not trying to be what other people want you to be. Being cool in your own eyes, staying true to yourself. Being yourself and being unique. Why fit in when you’re a stand out?”
So, Kath & Kim and Australian Chardonnay are by their very definition, totally uncool.
It’s the start of the uncool movement, so there’s only one thing left for us all to do.
“Oh alright then! Chardonnay, CHARDONNAY you pack of chunts!”
And, to help you get into the spirit, here are FIVE OF MY FAVOURITE CHARDONNAYS:
Giant Steps Tarraford Vineyard Chardonnay $45, Yarra Valley (I love all their single vineyard Chardonnays ….when you can get hold of them!) Giant Steps
Scarborough White Label Chardonnay $40, Hunter Valley (Yellow and Blue Label Chardonnays also very good) Scarborough
Kooyong Clonale Chardonnay $30, Mornington Peninsula Kooyong
Taylors $18, Adelaide Hills and Clare Valley (widely available and a very good reliable option from a known producer) Taylors
Mt Pleasant Leontine Chardonnay $30, Hunter Valley Mount Pleasant
And, a bonus pick, because I can!
Tulloch 2013 Vineyard Selection Chardonnay, $20, Hunter Valley. The wine most likely to be found in my glass, in my fridge, on my table and in my wine rack every night of the week! Tulloch Wines
Click here to watch the infamous Kath & Kim Cardonnay episode: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3krx4xjEMa0
Click here to check out the Facebook page Cardonnay Facebook Page