WINE O’CLOCK: Chardonnay – a good name for wine but not for women
I READ that Chardonnay is making a comeback. That’s bad news for the unfortunate women who acquired it as a first name in a mad trend that swept parts of the country about 20 years ago.
It’s no fun being called after a dodgy wine. But, of course, it wasn’t a dodgy wine back then. It was a nice, subtle white that chilled superbly and tasted of vanilla and light summer fruits.
It suffered from over-production, as all popular wines tend to do. Corners were cut, standards were lowered, sugar was added. Then they started selling it in those little pub bottles and people who weren’t sure how to pronounce any other type of grape said: “I’ll have a Chardonnay please.”
The worst of the bad stuff has gone now. The best of the good stuff never went away – although, unlike the women, it could go by other names. If you drink Pouilly-Fuissé or a Chablis you are drinking Chardonnay and a great many labels have the Chardonnay grape in their blend.
It is grown across the wine-producing world, from the Chablis and Burgundy regions of France to Australia, USA, Argentina and Chile. Cooler climates generate green fruit flavours, such as apple and pear. In warmer regions it veers towards tropical fruit.
Some Chardonnay is aged in oak barrels, which gives it a darker look and heavier flavour. It can be good but it is an acquired taste.
If you are new to this wine, try first an unoaked brand from a cool region such as Chablis, then maybe a lightly-oaked one (the back label should tell you) from Australia, before moving to something more oaky, from South Africa maybe.
You can drink them on their own, obviously, but Chardonnays are best enjoyed with food, particularly white fish or shellfish. It is also very good with chicken.
Here are some to try:
Montras Reserva (The Wine Centre, Kilkenny, €12.95). If you want it unoaked, start with this one from the Colchagua Valley in Chile. Peach and pear with a creamy texture.
Murphy Goode Chardonnay (O’Briens €18.95). Flavours of apple, lemon and peach in this slightly oaked wine from the USA.
Gérard Bertrand Domaine de l’Aigle Chardonnay (O’Briens €18.86). This one from,the Languedoc region has similar citrus flavours to the Murphy Goode, but is a little more oaky.
Don David Reserve (The Wine Centre, Kilkenny, €15.95)) Slightly oaked, but very light in taste and texture. A favourite of mine.