Freedom Ridge 2009 Chardonnay

A bold grape like Chardonnay benefits from those viticultural techniques which seem of late
Posted 13th February 2013        

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Every now and then I get a hankering for Chardonnay.

I reckon I drink wine in a 3:1 ratio, red:white. And nowadays, which yesterme would be rather shocked by, most of my white-wine purchases tend to be Sauvignon Blanc – or maybe a Riesling or some other aromatic varietal if I want some wine with Thai or Indian food.

In fact, my white-wine purchases are far more likely to be governed by the meals I’m planning to cook. If I see a red wine I want (often a New World Pinot Noir or some combo of Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvèdre) I just go for it. Conversely, I’d probably still say Chardonnay is my favourite single-varietal white (usually New World), and yet I hardly ever buy it.

This is partly because the Chardonnay style I like – i.e. tropical fruits, heavy with the influence of oak – remains unpopular. We’ve all heard the one about Footballer’s Wives and Bridget Jones relegating my favourite grape to the bottom of the cool-lists; but in recent years it’s seemed fine for new-style Chardonnays to be drunk in public. Well – not actually in public: in restaurants or at parties.

This Freedom Ridge 2009 affair from Marks & Spencer is from Monterey AVA, which sounds almost painfully cool.

Two interesting facts about this wine:

1) I dropped the first bottle in the car park so it ended up costing twice the RRP. I could blame Wales’s policy of charging 5p for plastic bags, but it was my fault really and everybody knows that.

2) The reverse label has been overlaid with one that is identical in every detail but the alcohol, which has increased from 13.5% to 14%. Whether this occurred in transit or not I may never know. But thank GOODNESS somebody made me aware of this development or I might have over-indulged and forgotten myself.

Admittedly only one of those is about the wine; and that one only loosely.

But I don’t really have a whole lot to say about it. The fruit flavours were elegant and enjoyable, with a definite flavour of stone fruits rather than the more out-there tropical tones you sometimes get in the New World – especially from South Africa and Australia. But other than these fruit flavours, counterbalanced with a characteristic and refreshing dryness, there was little to write home about. The cooling minerality of the big French AOCs (I’m thinking Chablis, as it’s the biggest of the big) is no doubt something the Californians would love to emulate. Indeed they almost definitely do, and quite possibly surpass it, at a higher price point.

This £7-ish (well £14-ish for me) bottle might make a decent match for a salad, a roast chicken or a not-too-strong cheese board. But it’s not going to bowl anyone over. Especially not on its own.

Part of the wine (which part nobody knows) was aged in oak barrelsFrench, rather than American, interestingly. I recall somebody know knew about wine once told me French oak has smaller grains and imparts a subtler oak flavour into the liquid. Well, bugger that; I’d use American for Chardonnay every time. This wine was lacking in the buttery, vanilla flavours that (I think) go so well with this particular grape and its intense fruitiness.

Softly, softly is all well and good with Pinot Grigio, which is usually a wine for people who don’t especially like wine. But a bold grape like Chardonnay benefits from those viticultural techniques which seem of late to have fallen out of fashion.

Until I start tasting white wines like that again I’m probably likely to stick to the reds for the most part.

You can buy this from M&S for about £7.


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Meet the Author:
Alexander Velky
Alexander grew up on Anglesey, almost as far away from civilization as he’d have liked. He studied English at university and subsequently moved to Prague to teach it to Czech people for just long enough that he could say he’d done that. He then returned to the UK to do an MA in Professional Writing, and later moved to London by accident and worked in the music industry for a while. His interest in wine has been developing throughout. He took the WSET Intermediate exam, for which he was rewarded with a certificate and a pin badge, but he probably won't bother doing any more. He now lives in Pembrokeshire with his wife and daughter. He writes, and drinks, for a living. You can follow him on Twitter if that's how you choose to spend your time. Photograph by Léonie Keeble