Chardonnay has a problem I hope to have one day: everybody loves it and it’s too popular. Wine snobs consider modern Chardonnay to be pandering populist trash, the wine equivalent of the art world’s immortal Dogs Playing Poker. It is well known that novice wine lovers learn to grow beyond white Zinfandel; some feel the same about Chardonnay.
The numbers tell a different story. If wine lovers no longer consume Chardonnay, somebody somewhere must be simultaneously drinking a ton of it. It has been, and continues to be, the number one white grape in California alone in acres planted, tons harvested, money made, gallons produced, you name it. Just for perspective, 2017’s Chardonnay harvest was about five times the size of the Sauvignon Blanc harvest.
For a grape that has gone so mainstream, Chardonnay has noble, European roots. It is one of “The Big Four” (Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon are the other three) at the core of France’s traditional wine identity. Chardonnay in France, known as white Burgundy and famously expensive due to single vineyard wines, is a far cry from California’s modern-day, low-end, daily drinking porch pounders..
Other grapes hope to grow big and popular, beloved and ubiquitous. People go through phases of drinking and not drinking Chardonnay; it falls into and out of favor all the time. In the modern era, most wine grapes work hard to fall into favor even once.
About the Author
Boston Wine School Founder & Executive Director
Jonathon is founder & executive director of the Boston Wine School, author of The Wine Lover’s Devotional and In Vino Veritas, and a commentator for National Public Radio on WGBH | Boston Public Radio and Under The Radar.
He began writing about wine, food and travel in 1988 and emerged as a wine expert through his syndicated wine column. He has contributed numerous articles to the Associated Press, Frequent Flyer Magazine, La Vie Claire, Beverage Business Magazine, Mobil Travel Guides, Fodor’s Travel Guides, Boston Globe, and many others.
Jonathon founded the Boston Wine School in 2000 where he teaches wine and food classes in a dedicated 100% snob-free zone. His new book Wine Life: A Collection Of Verses will be published in 2020.