JWL Issue #008: Anything But Chardonnay? Not Anymore...

June 26, 2018

With my fix for rosé well and truly sated by the endless supply that Provence brings, I’ve turned my attention to whites in the past week. 

For years, I rarely drank white wine. I might order Picpoul or Chablis with some fish in a restaurant, but it was out of muscle memory rather than understanding what I was drinking. 

Since learning about wine, it is my biggest growth area. Stylistic differences between cool and hot climates; between winemaker choices; between different grapes - they all contribute to a hugely diverse flavour, texture and aroma profile. 

One thing missing from my tasting this week was any English white. In England, our sparklers are world renowned, but I truly believe we’re due our own Marlborough sauvignon moment in the next handful of years. Two of my friends were drinking the incredible Horsmorden Bacchus from Davenport over the weekend. Much more to come on English wine in the coming months.


When I drank the orange cataratto a few weeks ago, I was amazed by the lovely savouriness and the tricks it played with colour/taste. This week, I tried the Sicilian Ciello Blanco, another cataratto, available from Farmdrop for £9.99

The savouriness was here again, and then behind it a selection of flavours I rarely recognise in wine but that amaze me. This is insanely good value. Cataratto is now becoming a staple favourite white grape. 

In more traditional white grapes, the Montes Alpha Chardonnay from Casablanca Valley (£13-£14 from a series of online retailers) was brilliant too. Not quite as full bodied as the Ciello Blanco, but complex and evolving on each sip. You can count almost every tropical flavour under the sun with this - and with 29 degree heat there’s little better paired.



My first experience of it was hearing the phrase ‘ABC: anything but chardonnay’ some time during university. For years that was my only thought on it, until one day I realised the grape in Chablis was chardonnay. Mind, as they say, was blown.

Chardonnay is an amazing grape. One of the few that can grow across cool, moderate and hot climates. In cool regions (like Chablis), you get bright, green fruit flavours like apple and pear. In moderate locations you’ll get stone fruit and in hot climates, you’ll get tropical fruit. 

Chardonnay can be played with quite a bit in winemaking process too. Some winemakers may choose a process called malolactic fermentation which brings butteriness to it. Others may leave the wine in contact with the dead yeast cells (called lees), which add creamy, savoury notes. It can be aged too, adding toasty, nutty or honey flavours to the aroma.


Malolactic Fermentation

This is where malic acid is converted into lactic acid. It’s more typical in regions where grapes don’t ripen quite as well: so you might notice it in some English or other cool climate wines. It happens inside oak barrels and will give wines a butteriness or creamy texture.

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