Big and buttery or sweet and aged?

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Under the heading ‘Over-oaked, under-priced and over here‘ I wrote a blog about the growth in California chardonnay sales in this country and how they were finding favour with fans of “big and buttery” styles.

I received this response from winemaker, Tony Bish, a man who has fashioned some of this country’s best chardonnays:

“Just a note to say how much I hate the Californian chardonnays our retailers are promoting so heavily.

These are sweet, aged chardonnays prostituting themselves as big, fat and buttery. Age any chardonnay 3 or 4 years with 6 grams per litre residual sugar and loads of American oak and you will get a certain style, but the so-called fat butteriness is a function of the age and sugar, not malo-lactic. (popular Californian chardonnay) Bogle only recently rolled to 2014, and as per the 2013, it is definitely sweet. It’s a formula.

There is a danger here. Consumers have come back to chardonnay, but these types of flatulent Californian styles are exactly what caused the ABC phenomenon years ago, and we are at risk of that happening again if sweet wines are masqueraded as buttery.

I have been asked by retailers to make my Fat & Sassy ‘fatter’ more times than I care to mention, but I refuse to go down the high residual sugar pathway. I try to gain opulence through good ripe fruit, malo, lots of battonage, and balanced acidity. Yes I have pushed it further in this direction with positive results, and that’s all good. I wish I could defer release another 6 months or year, but cash flow demands release at about the 14 month mark from harvest. I aim to stretch this out, which will certainly help, it just takes time as a young company.

That’s my rant for the day!! I feel better now. Written with my Tony Bish Wines hat on.”

Wine retailer, Kingsley Wood, prompted my initial blog. I forwarded Tony’s email for comment. This from Kingsley.

“They are so popular for several reasons.

  • Most are made in a style quite different to those currently being made in NZ.
  • The prices are competitive and as a lot of NZ chardonnays shoot up in price they become good value.
  • The wines are smooth and oaky & fruity – some have buttery characters. Many including Bogle 2015 have consumer appeal and right now the majority of the 2016 NZ chardonnays are quite tight, closed and not really good drinking. It may be Xmas before we start to enjoy the current crops of 2016 chardonnay.
  • We have seen 3 wine styles become very popular over the past 2 – 3 years.
  • Prosecco – hugely popular over the past 2 yrs but will the demand continue – possibly not.
  • Rosé wines – their popularity will continue but producers need to be careful with their pricing versus vintage quality.
  • Californian chardonnays – as mentioned – I believe they have 2-3 yrs.

Interestingly the ‘challenging’ 2017 NZ vintage may actually give us some chardonnays to drink and enjoy early

They may not rank highly in the eyes of the winemakers, but the public may enjoy them. After all, we often forget that the most important link in the food chain – in this case wine chain – is the consumer. There is not a lot of point in producing something that the public won’t buy.”

One thought on “Big and buttery or sweet and aged?”

  1. Bob says:

    Go Trump!

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