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ABC - A Blog for Christmas
Does anyone remember when it was considered quite normal to walk up to a bar and order a glass of ABC?
We are strangely fond of the anacronym in this country. ABC could, in this most wretched of years, stand for something else - America, Brexit, Co-Vid – perhaps, or possibly - Another Boris Cock-Up? - But, back in the early noughties when face masks were things that only the Chinese wore, and when tiers were usually debated within the context of a wedding cake, it meant; Anything But Chardonnay.
Chardonnay. Arguably the most noble of white grapes. Those juicy blobs of joy that dangle from the vines of Burgundy's Le Montrachet vineyard, the golden dew drops that are squished, diddled and riddled to create the great Clos de Mesnil of Champagne house Krug or the legendary fruit of Napa's Chateau Montelena, whose version of the grape shocked the wine world at The Judgment of Paris in 1976.
However, around the beginning of this century it had begun to offend the wine guzzling public and the soon to be labelled ABC crowd had a decent point. For it was around this time that a specific style of Chardonnay began to flood the market. That style was all about oak and at worse ultimately oak flavour. Sweet vanilla, hot buttered crumpets and furniture polish. Now, I don't believe I am the only one who thinks that all these things smell rather pleasant, but what seemed to have happened is that the style lost control and had become almost a pastiche of itself. It got sweeter, stickier and ickier. Barrels were replaced by staves dipped into tanks of wine, staves by bags of oak chips bunged in for good measure. It was a lazy, souless, pointless sort of wine style and people got sick of it.
Chardonnay had an identity crisis. The ABC crowd turned to Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc which provided the perfect antithesis with all its fresh-cut grass plus zesty gooseberry and whilst their attentions were turned joyfully, a Chardonnay resurgence began. Winemakers listened sensibly to their market. The style reverted to more grape driven, fresh and crystalline. Oak was used either skilfully or abandoned altogether (whilst, no doubt, winemakers in Chablis sat there smirking and saying 'I told you so'.) Unwooded or unoaked was what people began to look for on labels. 'Minerality', became the tasting note buzzword of choice, 'Oaky' was spat out with a dismissive sneer.
Of course, the truth was and still is that there is plenty of room for all styles of Chardonnay and what a vast array of styles there are.
Selected below are just three of them well worth exploring over the next couple of weeks.
I hope you have A Brilliant Christmas.
Smoky, racy granny smith. Complex and powerful but nervy enough to give it that classic Chablis edge. Long and dry. Perfect with smoked salmon.
£39.95 on offer at £34.95 Also, available in Magnum £84.95
From 1er Cru vineyards. Soft, crisp and mineral with great depth. A long, biscuity finish. Fantastic value grower champagne for any celebration.