In some parts of the world, it’s hard to imagine drinking anything else other than Chardonnay. Australia, for example, is renowned for its Chardonnay, which is planted in virtually every region. Think Australian white wine and you think Chardonnay. But, the grape has gained something of an unwanted, and often undeserved reputation, in recent years; so much so that a new movement has started called Anything But Chardonnay in a bid to showcase lesser known grape varieties.
So, if you are a Chardonnay fan, however unfashionable that may be, what are you to choose instead? Well, we think Spain is definitely the way to head for little known grapes which pack a punch like Chardonnay, but which won’t have your ABC friends turning up their noses at your wine selection:
Macabeo, which is the grape you’ll find in Cava, gets a name change to Viura as the major grape of any white Rioja. It’s traditionally fermented in oak barrels, which gives it the oakiness of Chardonnay. Viuras tend to have buttery, nutty, almondy flavours and the pineapple and banana aromas often associated with Chardonnay. Arnegui Viura Blanco is a great value option made with 100% Viura grapes.
Another Spanish option, this one is a good one to try if you’re a fan of more subtle Chardonnays. Highly aromatic and with ripe apple and pineapple aromas, Godellos often have a slight spice due to their barrel-ageing. One of the best examples is Guitian Godello Fermentado Barrica which is fermented in American oak barrels for six months. The colour is bright yellow with green reflections while there is lots of fruit and a long, cool, creamy palate.
Full-bodied just like Chardonnay, Viognier is, however, a more perfumed affair on the nose. While Viognier often has much softer flavours at first sip, this builds into an oiliness on the palate, balanced with citrusy flavours. Opting for a blend can add extra subtlety. The Grenache Blanc grape is really popular for blending and with good reason. It adds versatility to a heavy Viognier. We love the Mas d’en Gil Coma Alta for its fruity, citrusy, smokey flavours and creamy finish.
More elegant than many a Chardonnay, the Albillo is made to the north of Madrid. It’s a full-bodied grape which usually has a characteristic hint of beeswax rather than the oiliness of Viognier. Aromatic and complex, serving up an Albillo often provides a talking point at dinner parties. A good choice is the Reto from Bodegas y Vinedos Ponce which is more than a match for complex fish stews or creamy sauces.
Not the easiest grape to produce, Verdejo hasn’t been without its problems. But a switch to night-time harvesting has led to superior wines. A typical Verdejo will be creamy and nutty with notes of honey. A fantastic example is the Palacio De Bornos Verdejo Fermentado En Barrica which is an intense yellow with hints of green, just like Chardonnay.
By choosing grape varieties which aren’t as well-known as Chardonnay, you’ll be able to convert even the most ardent ABC followers to the delights of complex, full-bodied creamy wine.