I hate chardonnay, can’t stomach pinot griggio and for certain, ” I ain’t drinking any f#!king merlot.”*
How often have you heard someone flatly rule out drinking a certain variety of wine? For me it’s a frequent encounter, and personally something completely incomprehensible – akin to a sort of grapism if you like. I’ll concede that the preference of white over red has a certain fundamental taste implication, but to be a fan of say, sauvignon blanc, but refuse a glass, any glass, of Chardonnay has to be closed mindedness in extremis!!
Let’s take Chardonnay as our case in point, after all it Is probably the object of grapism more often than any other variety. When someone rules out drinking chardonnay, how many styles are they taring with the same brush? Old world, new world, unoaked, lees matured, barrel fermented, those subjected to malolactic, those not. Single vineyard, cool climate, warm climate and well most Champagnes and fizz. Admittedly there is an overlap between a few of those, but I am sure you see the point. So where does this aversion stem from and why is chardonnay so commonly its subject?
It is more likely than not, that in chardonnay’s case, this aversion comes from the use of oak and malolactic fermentation. There are few wines that use these factors so potently, to create tastes from which the style of the wine is so intrinsically determined. Oak used in red wine tends to be masked more often by the arguably stronger inherent fruit components of red varieties, and any malo will simply add a softness and roundness to the mouth. But with Chardonnay, oak and malo often working in tandem and can create a buttery flavour of extreme concentration. This can compliment the grape beautifully, but can also be a shock to any unsuspecting imbiber expecting a mouthful of mainly fruit flavours. However, chardonnay’s propensity to dance merrily hand in hand with oak is what sets it apart from other whites and makes it so special. Similarly the acidity and earthiness of pinot, the pepperiness of syrah, the gaminess of aged cabernet and the grassiness of sauvignon blanc are all factors that make these varieties so special.
Differences in wine should be embraced and drinking wine should be about experiencing and learning to appreciate those differences.
*Miles from sideways