Chardonnay is back, baby. Apparently it’s one of the wine varieties that went from geek to chic. It was the drink of the 90s, favoured by Bridget Jones and nobody who was anybody would be seen drinking it in public after 1998. However, wine critics have recently made a U-turn on this, with waves of un-oaked chards from Australia, New Zealand, France and California winning awards.I’m not sure this news of the chard re-brand has hit Hampshire yet. When I asked for my new drink of choice in the local pub it was met with a gasp from a Northerner at a nearby pool table. The barman had to dust off an old bottle at the back of the fridge (another plus: they usually have to hunt around a bit and open a new bottle, so it’s a bit fresher than the day-old sauvignon blancs). The truth is I really don’t know much about wine, but I have to admit I really do like it.
I re-discovered the taboo tipple when my friend and I worked a few shifts on a beautiful family-run vineyard when we lived in New Zealand. Initially I hated the job: the early mornings, the bee stings, the promise of tea breaks when no tea ever actually materialised (and I won’t go into the toilet facilities – let’s just say it involved ditches). But after you taste a grape fresh from the vine, and then try the wine that has just been made, it does give you a new-found respect for the humble chard. I began to think it didn’t deserve its naff image, as we tasted some really fantastic chardonnay wines which certainly changed my opinion.
I have friends who would rather streak naked through the bar than order anything other than their faithful pinot grigio. And even though you will draw funny looks, and probably have to repeat yourself when you order, it’s always the White Delight that is my favourite. Admittedly, it does have its drawbacks (don’t say I didn’t warn you):
- The name is vile (and anybody calling their child this had clearly had too much of the White Delight upon making this horrendous decision. Note – naming children after a favourite food or drink is just awful – thank goodness Tikka Masala never ranked very high on Nameberry either).
- A bad chard can taste horrific. Like a cat’s breath (but so too can a bad steak, gumball or Silvester Stallone film…therefore, chardonnay, I won’t hold it against you). If this happens in a bar simply give it as a gift to the closest person that you dislike. If it happens at home give it immediately to your least favourite plant.
- People will think you are odd. Never mind – it means you will probably get the whole bottle to yourself – hurrah!
- It will look like you are sipping a glass of urine. People will say it’s too sweet/sour/it smells. Everyone will have an opinion but remember they are WRONG (except about the wee thing – that is true).
- It can make your mouth taste a bit funny. Alex James from Blur suggests eating carrots to combat this. At risk of drawing even more strange looks I would recommend a TicTac instead.
- You will feel like Bridget Jones whilst drinking it, there is no getting around it. I usually end up even talking like her after one glass on an empty stomach. Embrace the positives: you probably know where Germany is and also you are real.
As mentioned, I really know nothing about wine. Despite numerous wine tasting experiences, I still always mutter “hmm, greengages” (I have no idea what greengages taste like, and I just hope that nobody nearby does either. It just sounds like it might be right). So don’t take it from me – try a nice Chard for yourself – it may just be the start of something sweet.