Bridget Jones 'has put Britain off chardonnay'

As a singleton in her thirties, her romances almost always ended in failure. And as a worldwide publishing phenomenon, Bridget Jones has had a similarly disastrous impact on her favourite drink, chardonnay, according to one of Britain's best-selling wine writers, Oz Clarke.

British drinkers are starting to shun the wine and the blame for its decline, says Clarke, should be firmly placed at the door of the neurotic, weight-conscious fictional publishing assistant created by Helen Fielding.

In Bridget Jones's Diaries, which appeared in The Independent between 1995 and 2005, Jones took refuge in large amounts of wine – often chardonnay – following disappointments in her quest for a husband.

"Chardonnay has made some of the world's greatest wines. Everyone appreciated it – until Bridget Jones," said Clarke.

"Bridget Jones goes out on the pull, fails, goes back to her miserable bedsit, sits down, pours herself an enormous glass of chardonnay, sits there with mascara running down her cheeks saying, 'Dear diary, I've failed again, I've poured an enormous glass of chardonnay and I'm going to put my head in the oven.' Great marketing aid!"

Across Britain fewer people are seeking solace – or enjoyment – in chardonnay. In the past 12 months, 7.5 million shoppers bought it, fewer than the previous year, according to the retail analysts TNS. Meanwhile, rivals such as sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio are rising in popularity.

Such is the stagnation that the drinks giant Foster's Group has told growers that from next year it will pay a maximum of $300 (£160) a tonne on new contracts for "D-grade" char-donnay grapes, used in most popular table wines.

With rising water, fuel and fertiliser costs, this price would not cover farmers' expenses, Chris Byrne, of the Riverland Wine Grape Growers Association, told The Australian newspaper. "The message we're getting is no one is looking for char-donnay," he complained.

Clarke made his comments at London's first self-storage wine facility, operated by Big Yellow. Pointing the finger at Jones – whose diaries were made into Hollywood films in 2001 and 2004 – he said: "Until Bridget Jones, chardonnay was really sexy. After, people said, 'God, not in my bar'."

"If you're a marketing manager what would you say? 'OK, I'm going to sell something that makes people feel really miserable. Let's call it chardonnay!'

However Clarke, who starred in the TV series Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure with the Top Gear presenter James May, defended chardonnay and called for it to be rehabilitated.

Alan Griffiths, wine director of Berry Brothers, Britain's biggest wine merchants, said: "The appeal of chardonnay is still very strong. It's a safer bet for a party. It's more likely to go down well for a group of 50 than a gewürztraminer or a riesling or a sauvignon blanc, which some people find too grassy or acidic."

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