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Grape Varieties: Chardonnay

Chardonnay

Chardonnay

One of the most common wines in the world, Chardonnay grapes are used to produce numerous styles ranging from sharp, sparkling wines to creamy, rich wines matured in oak.

Main Flavors

  • Yellow apple
  • Pear
  • Pineapple
  • Vanilla
  • Butter

Taste Profile:

  • Dry, medium to full body
  • Average acidity
  • 11% to 15% ABV

How to serve:

45 to 55°F / 7 to 12°C

Glassware:

Aroma collector

Aging:

5 to 10 years

Food & Wine Pairing:

Chardonnay is a great pairing with plenty of different foods and dishes. The creaminess in richer Chardonnays makes it a perfect pairing for creamy cheeses like Brie and rich, cheesy dishes like mac and cheese. Chardonnay is also great with plenty of seafood dishes, especially those featuring butter like lobster. Various chicken and pork dishes also go well with Chardonnay. For vegetarians, rich or starchy vegetables such as corn, pumpkin, or squash are great options. And mushrooms are a must!

Fun facts about the Chardonnay Grape

  1. Chardonnay is the second most planted white grape variety in the world today. It is only surpassed by the Spanish Airén grape variety used to make a large amount of bulk wine.
  2. Chardonnay is a key grape variety used in Champagne as well as other sparkling wines, such as Crémant, Franciacorta, and Trento.
  3. The grape is thought to originate from a small village called Chardonnay in France. The name originally meant “place of thistles” or “place covered with thistles.”
  4. By law, if a sticker says “Chablis,” it must be 100% Chardonnay.
  5. If you see “Blanc de Blancs” on a Champagne label, it means you are drinking 100% Chardonnay.
  6. Chardonnay is said to be “made in the cellar” because the winemaker can drastically change the final flavor by using or not using oak and various other winemaking techniques.
  7. Even though Chablis and regions with a cool climate tend to show wines with vivid acidity, the grapes’ natural acidity is moderately low.
  8. Wente in California is renowned for cloning Burgundy Chardonnay in 1912. Named the Wente clone, it is the foundation for nearly 80% of American Chardonnay vineyards today.
  9. Chardonnay became a baby name in the UK around 2002 because of a character in ‘Footballer’s Wives.’

Styles of Chardonnay:

Oaked Chardonnay

  • These are high-end wines from California, Burgundy, and Australia, among others. Chardonnay wines that have been aged in oak are often more golden colored and have strong butter and vanilla aromas and flavors. Their fuller body calls for richer seafood and meat dishes.

Unoaked Chardonnay

  • Unoaked Chardonnay is often made in Chile, New Zealand, and other regions of France.
  • Lean, oak-free Chardonnay is exceptional with fresh seafood like oysters, sushi, sautéed fish, pâté, vegetable or mushroom risotto, or mussels. Its crispness, minerality, and soft aromas need crisp and soft foods.

What to Look for in Chardonnay Wine:

  • Oaked Chardonnays are rich and full-bodied, and often have additional flavors of oak-aged vanilla, pastry spices, or butter. Tastes range from tropical (consider pineapple or mango) in warm environments to green apples and thinner citrus fruits in colder climates.
  • Unoaked Chardonnay is not what you’d expect. The flavor is comparable to the lively tastes of Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, but with no “green” flavors. Chardonnay differs in flavor depending on the climate in which it grows. Depending on the maturity of the grapes, the flavor varies from citrus fruits and green apples to overripe peach and canned pineapple.

How much should you expect to spend?

The average price per bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru is $10,729. Aside from second mortgage wines, expect to spend around $10 to $40 for a good bottle of Chardonnay.

Date for your diary:

May 26th is Chardonnay Day!

Want to learn more about wine? Try out these books!

References:

Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours. Jancis Robinson 2012

Wine. Years. People. Events. Massandra Wine Collection 2010

The World Atlas of Wine: 8th Edition. Johnson, H & Robinson, J. 2019

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