ABC - time to change your mind on Anything But Chardonnay.

There is no denying that all wine tends to elicit a strong response from enthusiasts. Favourites are discussed with fervour, while the other end of the spectrum encourages more animated discussion. It sometimes feels like the only thing that unites wine lovers more than a shared devotion to quality grapes is a loathing of substandard selections.

One varietal that often receives short shrift among these shared declarations of disrepute is Chardonnay. This grape enjoyed a huge spike in popularity through the 1990s and early 2000s, thanks in no small part to association with beloved popular culture characters of the era like Bridget Jones and the Sex and the City players. Alas, what comes up must come down – and few wines have been brought crashing back to earth with quite the same force as Chardonnay.

Over the last decade or more, this grape has seen its reputation savaged and tattered, to the point that many wine drinkers loudly and proudly declare themselves part of the "ABC Club." These individuals are not bragging about their basic literacy skills; in this instance, ABC stands for "Anything but Chardonnay."

So, why was Chardonnay considered such a vino non grata in the wine community? Beyond overexposure in the past, most will claim that Chardonnay provides an unbalanced taste sensation, overpowered with oak and buttery sensations and lacking subtlety. Today, a typical white wine enthusiast will declare that a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio offers a superior and classy drinking experience.

To an extent, these Chardonnay-sayers have a valid point. The popularity of Chardonnay certainly allowed a flood of inferior wines to make their way into the marketplace. High demand will always open the door to opportunism, and the reputation of Chardonnay suffered when substandard bottles began overwhelming superior alternatives. The crispness offered by an Antipodean Sauvignon or Italian Pinot became considerably more popular than the creaminess of a Californian Chardonnay.

As much as it distresses some of us to do so, we need to remember that the 90s are slipping ever further into the past. So much so that the decade is ripe for revisiting through a nostalgic lens, including giving Chardonnay another chance. Absence may have made the heart grow fonder for the ABC club, but what's more important to note is that inferior producers have long since packed up their demijohns and fermenters. A fine Chardonnay in 2022 differs significantly from the options available 25 years ago.

The truth is, Chardonnay is among the most versatile grapes in the world. This makes a mockery of claims that all Chardonnay wines suffer from the same failings of flavour. While it's true that Chardonnay is typically at the drier end of the spectrum, superior storage and fermentation for an appropriate period will offer a smooth and welcoming hint of vanilla and sweetness to temper this. The question remains, though – how can you convince a card-carrying member of the ABC Club to give Chardonnay another chance?

The simplest solution is to offer a blind taste test. Many people may be surprised at how a contemporary Chardonnay defies their expectations and pre-conceived impressions of this wine. Invest in a bottle of appropriate age grown in the warmest climes possible for a superior experience. For many, the perfect Chardonnay is an unoaked vintage created in the New World – a traditional California vineyard is likelier to retain an oaky aftertaste that many Chardocynics associate with the inferior bottles of the yesteryear.

For some, Chardonnay will never receive a fair shake. A surprising number of drinkers will declare that the grape carries a reputational stain that refuses to shift, fearing the repercussions of outing themselves as secretive Chardonnay supporters. We urge anybody to give this wine another try, though. Keep an open mind and palate, and there is a good chance that everything you think you know about Chardonnay will evaporate when a rich and delicious vintage touches your tongue.