We don’t hear about chardonnay as much as we used to. Good. In the 1980s, chardonnay was nearly synonymous with white wine. In restaurants and bars customers would ask for “a glass of chardonnay” as if it were a single product, like Coca Cola or Heineken.
Within a decade, chardonnay-fatigue began to set in, partly caused by the yawn-inducing quality of much of the wine on offer and partly by cries of “ABC” – “Anything But Chardonnay” – in the wine press.
Whatever the cause of the backlash, it worked. Nowadays I rarely hear anyone ordering a glass of chardonnay. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they’re likely to ask for pinot grigio instead. Pinot grigio, you might say, is the new chardonnay.
But just as there is loads of good chardonnay, there is such a thing as good pinot grigio. And if you’re a fan, carry on, but keep the variety up with these three interesting wines — two Italian and one from Spain. One of the best whites I’ve tasted in the last year is Fiano di Avellino 2010, Feudi di San Gregorio, from Campania — full enough to partner any fish or chicken dish, yet crisp and fresh enough to drink on its own. Around £17 from greatwesternwine.co.uk, slurp.co.uk, winesdirect.co.uk and independents. Worth every penny.
Lower down the price scale but still in Italy, M&S have for some years been selling a Pecorino which is consistently good. Pecorino 2011 (£9.99) hails from Abruzzo, and it is another wine of remarkable complexity — lush stone-fruits, herbal notes, completely dry. And no, it’s not the same as the cheese.
In a way, my favourite of this trio is also the cheapest, and I love it partly because it’s just so unexpected. Mariona Moscatel Blanco 2011, Alicante, is bone-dry (rare in muscat), intensely perfumed, and deeply layered with diverse but harmonious flavours. A fantastic match with spicy food (£7.95 for a bottle exclusively from www.greatwesternwine.co.uk, 10 per cent discount for a case). Palate fatigue? Not with any of these wines.