British drinkers are turning their backs on Chardonnay, according to retail analysts TNS.
200,000 fewer shoppers bought Chardonnay in the past 12 months compared to the previous year, equating to a 3% decline in penetration year on year, the TNS survey found.
Earlier this week the British national press erroneously reported the figure as 7.5m
Chardonnay’s fall in popularity could be attributed to Australia’s unrelenting droughts over the past year, which significantly slashed yields in 2008. The grape also faces competition from its increasingly popular rivals, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio.
Drinks giant Forster’s Group has warned growers that from next year it will pay a maximum of only $300 (£160) a tonne on new contracts for Chardonnay grapes.
Wine writer Oz Clarke blamed the slump in Chardonnay sales on what he calls the Bridget Jones effect – a reference to the popular film in which the lovelorn anti-heroine drowns her sorrows in a large glass of Chardonnay.
‘Chardonnay has made some of the world’s greatest wines. Everyone appreciated it – until Bridget Jones’, he said. ‘Before Bridget Jones, Chardonnay was really sexy. After, people said, ‘God, not in my bar’’.
But while there are many reasons for a slump in Chardonnay sales, the idea that it is perceived as ‘uncool’ is no longer current.
For several years now winemakers across the New World have been adapting Chardonnay styles for the UK and mainland European market to reflect these regions’ taste for less-oaked, more elegant wines.
Wine expert Christopher Piper accused Clarke of being behind the times, saying the white wine was ‘no longer uncool to drink’, while Alun Griffiths, wine director of Berry Brothers, said ‘the appeal of Chardonnay is still very strong’.
Written by Lucy Shaw