Anything But Chardonnay?
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed December 19, 2001. For more information go to www.wineloverspage.com.
I wouldn't really sign on to any wine philosophy that writes off any wine grape or region entirely. There's too much joy in the variety of wine to dismiss any category entirely; and if someone offered me, say, a wine made from Concord grapes grown in the Maldives, I'm sure I would give it a try just to see what it was like.
But that being said, it's easy to understand why some wine lovers, marching under the banner "Anything But Chardonnay," not-so-quietly rebel against this particular grape.
Yes, Chardonnay at its best makes some of the world's finest wines, particularly in Burgundy and Champagne and with outposts in Australia and California and elsewhere. But too many of the Chardonnays that seem to dominate retail shelf space and restaurant wine lists are, frankly, boring. Chardonnay has become a popular mass-market wine because it can be made soft, mellow and just a notch to the sweet side of "dry." A regular diet of that kind of thing can be as cloying as too much ice cream.
Sauvignon Blanc offers one escape for white-wine fanciers seeking an alternative to Chardonnay. The increasingly popular Pinot Gris/Grigio is another, not to mention Riesling, Viognier, Albarino and many more. And don't overlook Chenin Blanc, particularly as rendered in the Loire Valley of France.