The Elgin event brings focus to a top-scoring Chardonnay range from a quintessential South African grape, writes Michael Fridjhon.
11 NOVEMBER 2016 – 06:21 MICHAEL FRIDJHON
Preferences in wine are much more about fashion than most vintners know – or are prepared to acknowledge. There are many reasons for it.
If you are a producer in Burgundy, Bordeaux or Champagne – or in a part of the world whose climate and soils are best suited to the cultivars that are planted in such places – there is not a lot you can do about suddenly changing preferences.
You also would not like to concede that an unexpected sales boom could be the result of a trend entirely beyond your control.
In the 1980s, chardonnay was all the rage worldwide. Then the ABC (Anything but Chardonnay) movement launched its offensive and sales plummeted.
Instead a whole generation of wine drinkers focused on sauvignon blanc, convinced that the crisp acidity was a sign of sophistication (“Chardonnays are all so oaky and sweet,” they said). Growers stopped planting the great white Burgundy variety, choosing instead cultivars that tracked the fashion for unoaked whites.
Before most of them realised it, there was a shortage of chardonnay fruit – the price for which (pretty much worldwide) has been increasing steadily for at least a decade. The more it costs, the more people want it – so stand by for the Chardonnay boom in the next few years.
In anticipation of this – and really because the terroir is best suited to cooler climate varieties – the Elgin producers hosted the first of what they hope will be an annual Chardonnay Colloquium in early October.