It is the best of times, and it is the worst of times.
In 2013, California celebrated its largest grape harvest in history, with just shy of 4.7 million tonnes crushed according to official government statistics. Chardonnay, still reigning supreme as the single most popular grape variety grown in the state, made up a full 16.1% of that total, representing a volume of wine roughly equivalent to the total yearly production of Hungary. This is no doubt the consequence of the wine's popularity at tables throughout the nation. The single best-selling wine in restaurants around the country has for many years been Kendall Jackson's Vintners Reserve Chardonnay.
These sales numbers prove that we journalists write about the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) trend far more than ordinary drinkers utter the phrase, but I still regularly encounter ordinary wine drinkers who have turned away from the deadly combination of ubiquity and atrociousness that has long characterised California Chardonnay.
In the 20 years since those three letters were affixed to a segment of consumer sentiment, countless writers, myself included, have lobbied on behalf of Chardonnay's virtues in the right hands. Winemakers have also done their part, crafting unoaked versions of the grape that, for a brief period of time, piqued interest before becoming another failed experiment to rescue the grape's reputation in California.
This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is available only to subscribers of her web site. If you're not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It's only £6.99 a month or £69 per year ($11/mo or $109 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. 2015 Roederer Award Winner.Learn more.
I'll Drink to That: Karen MacNeil The Most Untrustworthy Wine in the World Wine News: What I'm Reading the Week of 11/22 I'll Drink to That: CP Lin of Erewhon Warm Up: New Zealand's South Island I'll Drink to That: Bob Cabral of Three Sticks Wines Warm Up: Rotgipfler and Beyond I'll Drink to That: Bernhard Stadlmann of Weingut Stadlmann Vinography Images: Last Light I'll Drink to That: Suzanne Mustacich
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune