A long time ago there was a common response to the question "a glass of white wine? What type or style would you like?" That response was "ABC" - anything BUT Chardonnay! Please.
Frequently the affronted sommelier (or smart Alec host) would respond with "how about a nice little Chablis?"
"Oooh, yes please, we love Chablis!"
Oh, how we all laughed!!
The ‘ABC movement’ was brought about by mass market winemakers (and dare I say it, but a hefty percentage from the New World) rather over oaking the pudding. The combination of clumsily used oak, sometimes in floating chip form, a buttery malolactic character and with more residual sugar left in the bottle these heavy, almost sweet, (and obviously oaky) Chardonnays gained mass market popularity. The cognoscenti were appalled and, like anything that becomes over popular, and perhaps regarded as ‘common’, there was an almighty backlash. After all, well made, top class Chardonnays have always been treated to some expensive oak treatment, and when used judiciously, this produces wonderful depth, nuance and flavour.
All of this is very hard to imagine these days and as my colleague Luke argues, ABC should stand for ABSOLUTELY BANGING CHARDONNAY!
I dined with an award winning Australian winemaker last week who makes Chardonnays at every level, represented in, and all the way from, Aldi to Zafferano’s (probably not but I needed a good ‘Z’!). He tells me he simply cannot make enough of the stuff, at every level. Demand is massive. On top of that he runs a wine bar and restaurant in Western Australia for which he bought three pallets of white Burgundy from a local merchant. The same merchant begged him to sell him back some of the Burgundy at a higher price within weeks.
Climate change has led to some well documented problems for Burgundy producers, from frosts to extreme heat, particularly in the most highly prized Cote de Beaune. Winemakers are adapting their skills admirably both in the vines and in the cellars, but there is currently a shortage of fruit and quality wines from this area and obviously prices are rising fast. This is where Chablis comes in! Situated in the north of Burgundy, the slightly cooler climate and without quite the same gamut of superstar names being pursued, other than Dauvissat and Raveneau, wines from here can often be easier to find and possibly represent better value.