Chardonnay is arguably the most polarising wine in Australia.
Although it is the most expensive white wine variety and prized by experts worldwide, many people love to hate it.
The blend picked up a bad name when some winemakers went a little overboard in the noughties making it overly rich, buttery and oaked - creating a movement against the wine called ABC (Anything But Chardonnay).
“Many wine drinkers still assume they don’t like Chardonnay, despite not having tried it in years,” says Freya Hohnen, winemaker at Once & Well Margaret River Chardonnay.
“Once I can persuade a wine drinker to give Chardonnay a go, they are often pleasantly surprised.
"There are so many different styles of Chardonnay available so saying you don’t like it just means you haven’t found the style for you."
Freya Hohnen, winemaker at Once & Well Margaret River Chardonnay
To celebrate International Chardonnay Day on May 23, Freya - who makes a premium Chardonnay from Margaret River, Australia’s most prized region for the variety - has busted some of the common myths surrounding this white wine.
Chardonnay is buttery and oaky
Although Chardonnay reacts well to oak, the grape itself is incrediblely versatile and can be made into several different styles, ranging from fresh and steely to slightly or highly oaked. In other words, the style is all about how the wine is made and what the winemaker does. Often, they add complexity through malolactic fermentation, lees stirring and oak maturation.
It’s cheap and cheerful
Chardonnay originates from Burgundy in France and the region makes the world’s most celebrated and prized expressions of the wine. The French wine is often referred to as ‘white Burgundy’, as a European wine label will tell you the country and region where the wine was made, whereas in Australia, we label wines according to the predominant grape in the bottle. One of the most prestigious wineries in Burgundy is Domaine Leflaive Montrachet, where a bottle of Grand Cru Chardonnay can set you back over $7,000.
Chardonnay has a deep gold colour
Chardonnay was nicknamed ‘sunshine in a glass’ back in the noughties, when some winemakers went overboard with creating the rich, fruity, oaky and buttery style that was so popular at the time – resulting in the wine being mass produced in a deep golden colour.
However, these days, winemakers are creating different styles, so the colour of the wines vary from pale yellow to gold. The richer styles tend to be golden in colour, as the oak ageing imparts colour.
It’s uncool & unpopular
While Sauvignon Blanc is the most popular white wine of choice in Australia, Chardonnay comes in a close second.
In fact, premium Chardonnay is gaining momentum with a 12 percent increase of sales in the last year.
The blend even has some famous fans including Victoria Beckham, who celebrated her 19th wedding anniversary with husband David Beckham over an $800 bottle of white Burgundy and Hiphop mogul Jay-Z.
Chardonnay is only a still wine
Did you know that only certain grapes are allowed when making Champagne, and Chardonnay is one of them? In fact, you can even get a Champagne made exclusively with Chardonnay grapes, and the style is called Blanc de Blancs.
When grown in cool climates, Chardonnay retains beautiful acidity, which is why the grapes are often used when making Champagne and other sparkling wines.
Chardonnay shouldn't be served too cold
The most common mistake wine drinkers make is that they over-chill Chardonnay. The ideal serving temperature for Chardonnay is 12 degrees Celsius, and considering the recommended fridge temperature is 3 degrees, it’s a mistake that’s easy to make if you leave the bottle in the fridge too long.
So why is this a problem? If you serve your Chardonnay too cold, it can dull the fruit flavours while overemphasise the buttery and oakiness. So when chilling Chardonnay, only pop it in for about 30 minutes in the fridge. This makes Chardonnay the perfect winter white.
To try Once & Well Chardonnay Margaret River 2017, head to Dan Murphy’s and selected BWS stores.