I was browsing an article sent to us by the venerable Erik Nye when I came across a term so often used in recent years, not least in the wine world: ABC. In “winespeak” (as those with enough pretension to think that their particular jargon merits being called its own language would say), ABC means Anything-But-Chardonnay, and represents a resounding rejection of increased Chardonnay production and sales over the past couple decades. As Chardonnay became the go-to white wine for people who didn’t necessarily know about wine, more serious wine drinkers saw their own favorite white grapes suffer in terms of representation on wine lists, availability in stores, and sometimes in actual planted acres. Therefore, “ABC” became their slightly snobbish battle cry against this increasingly ubiquitous varietal.
I thought we’d take it a step further and embrace the varietal while still remaining true to the spirit of the term. When people say anything-but-Chardonnay, they’re often referring to that big, buttery, oaky style of Chardonnay found in your average bottle from a large California producer. They may not have a problem with, say, a white Burgundy, or a Chardonnay made in the eastern US, or in Chile, none of which will necessarily taste like a Californian. So this week, we’ll be tasting ACBCC… Any Chardonnay But California Chardonnay. Bring a Chard from anywhere in the world, just not from California.
Like most grapes whose names sound French, Chardonnay’s traditional homeland is France — specifically the legendary region of Burgundy (or Bourgogne), which encompasses such familiar names as Chablis, Macon, Pouilly-Fuisse and Cote de Beaune . Chardonnay is Burgundy‘s sole white grape, and in that cool region it produces crisp, light wines that contain bright fruit and mineral flavors. It’s also in Burgundy that some (not all) producers incorporate oak into the winemaking process. When Chardonnay production exploded in the “new world” (California, Australia, etc.), it was warm-weather Chardonnays leading the way with their buttery oakiness; this is consequently the taste that many people associate with Chardonnay (a passage on the Wine Varietals Index says that “the natural varietal ‘taste and smell’ of Chardonnay is surprisingly unfamiliar to many wine drinkers, as its true character is often guised with dominating winemaking signatures” like buttery oak). Chardonnay is also the top white grape in Australia, where it is often blended with Semillon (try to avoid blends this week, just in case your wine gets chosen for the taste-off). Along with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay is the top white grape in Chile. It’s also made elsewhere in Europe, i.e. in limited quantities in Spain, Italy, and Austria, and in the eastern US.
(For this meeting, I will be breaking out my long-storied Italian Chardonnay. Crazy, right? I can already smell your piqued curiosity.) We’ll be meeting at Erik’s awesome apartment in Venice.
Do your best to chill your white, although given the late notice, we will have some manner of ice bucket on hand to see that those of you who buy a bottle on your way over will not do so in vain. Other than that, best of luck in your search, and we’ll see you tonight at 9:00!