Without, the night was ruthless and cold, but in the inviting ambience of Django at 1420 Locust St., the lights were dimmed, and the artificial candle flickered brightly. Smitten by my company’s stunning look and wallowing in my crapulence from the night before, I had set my mind on something refreshing. After a brief tête-à-tête with the server to showcase my boundless wine knowledge, I nominated a good ol’ Californian oaked chardonnay to be the antidote to my crippling indecision.
“I never took you for a chard guy,” she quipped dismissively. Although my snobbish obsession with matching wine and food has deteriorated for good, her remarks still sent me into sobbing disintegration: am I so out of touch with reality? And more importantly, what is the stigma behind guys drinking chardonnay? Troubled with the lingering thought for God-knows-how-many sleepless nights, I decided to take my fight to pen down my defence for chardonnay.
Originated in a small village of Chardonnay in France, the name “Chardonnay” meant “place of thistles” – thistle has been Scotland’s national emblem for many centuries and is one of the most well-known symbols of Scotland, among the likes of Harry Potter and deep-fried Mars bars. Jingoistic sentiment aside, chardonnay is made in a wide range of styles from lean, sparkling Blanc de Blanc to rich, buttery, creamy glassfuls of white aged in oak barrels. Brought across the Atlantic by the Wente family, chardonnay is now the most widely planted white grape variety and the most celebrated in Bridget Jones’ Diaries. Following her disappointments in her arduous quest for love, Jones took refuge in a disastrous amount of wine, often chardonnay. “Chardonnay has made some of the world’s greatest wines. Everyone appreciated it – until Bridget Jones.” Said renowned wine ponce Oz Clarke.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Jones did not do much for early 2000s feminism. She did even less for chardonnay. As it became increasingly associated with heartbreaks and semi-alcoholic binges, the untrendiness of chardonnay persisted. Back to the land of the free, unlike the overly intellectual French with their silly appellations and communist tendencies, liberated Californian wine makers, aka billionaires, took a different approach to wine making. Capitalizing on big screen and marketing, they were able to confer those sipping a sense of sophistication and culture. Not the most pressing social conundrums we are facing today, the marketing efforts did stoke consumer interests, and as young wine drinkers went off chardonnay en masse, those evil conglomerates followed. The likes of Two-Buck Chuck saturated the market with cheap, disposable bottles of sugary juice to pander to a generation of youth that salt their wines with tears while deciding all men are awful. The profits raked in so high even Donald Trump has a winery in Virginia producing some of the most hideous chardie, which might have prevented taking John Denver home. The outlook of wine drinking among younger guys presents a less sanguine picture that was faced with resistance from a class of recalcitrant flannel-wearers sloshing on name brand lagers, which was turned into mindless disdain, forged into a blissfully ignorant stigma that masculinity is insoluble in a glass of chardonnay.
Frankly speaking, I do not blame them. With the didactic and dogmatic format of wine tasting along a sea of wine ponces on YouTube preaching what to do and not to do, wine tasting turned into pontificating about wines and terroir on some chalky soil, where one awaits to one up another. With the wine experts lamenting the plethora of cheap chardie, which was the very existence that introduced more people to drink and establish a culture of wine drinking that allows the arty farty stuff to exist, it plagues those vulnerable minds scouring for answers on the internet. Unlike the French who raved about their terroir and soil in which someone’s grandfather was buried, American winemakers have been taking on a more scientific and industrious attempt to paint chard in a new light. From Paso Robles California to Long Island, New York, chardonnay shines in sensuous vanilla creaminess as much as flintier fruity elegance. It should be drunk rather than articulated upon, and I believe it has a purpose and place especially amongst youth – whether or not you impress the girl you met on tinder by self-inflicting to be the next wine connoisseur. Or you can simply and proudly say that you are the chard guy.