10 Things to Know about Chardonnay

International Chardonnay Day is just around the corner (21st May), and so here are ten things to know about the wonderful grape that divides opinion like no other. Most people, wine experts or not, seem to have an established and sometimes unchangeable opinion about this white grape variety, but we would urge you to kick back and pour yourself a glass regardless of your long-entrenched opinions…

1. Diversity
The grape Chardonnay is unusual because it can be grown in regions of varying climates, from hot to moderate to cool climates. Its style and character will vary considerably from climate to climate and from terroir to terroir. A Chardonnay from a cool climate like Chablis will taste completely different to a Chardonnay from a hotter climate like Adelaide Hills in South Australia. It is one of, if not the most diverse white wine grape variety. However, it is early budding, so in particularly cold climates this well-travelled varietal is very much at risk from spring frost damage.
2. Characteristics
Chardonnay does not have a particularly strong flavour on its own, which is why it is commonly oaked or fermented in the barrel. Its attributes are largely determined by technique and terroir.

3. Cool vs warm climate Chardonnay
An unoaked Chardonnay from a cool climate will typically have a reasonably high acidity, with lemon, apple and pear fruit flavours (e.g. Chablis) and can be similar in style to a zesty Sauvignon Blanc.

An oaked chardonnay from a warm climate will have more stone fruit flavours like peach as well as passion fruit and pineapple. The oak influence can have a buttery and creamy influence to the flavour, as well as introduce hints of vanilla and coconut.
Edna Valley, California by Anita Ritenour
4. Did you know?
Chardonnay is one of the primary varieties in Champagne, along with Pinot Meunier and Pinor Noir. Blanc de Blancs Champagne is made purely from the Chardonnay variety.

5. ABC (Anything But Chardonnay)
Chardonnay has quite a mixed reputation in the wine world. Some people were so adverse to the idea of drinking Chardonnay that the term ABC or “Anything But Chardonnay” was coined.

“In most cases…it’s not Chardonnay itself which is to blame, but the oak barrels in which it’s been sloshing about”
Olly Smith, The Daily Mail

Oaky white wines tend to divide wine drinkers’ opinion more than anything else, and Chardonnay certainly has a negative connotation for being overly manipulated by oak. The stronger, oaky styles of Chardonnay of the 80’s and 90’s put many people off this grape variety: instead they leant towards the ‘safer’ option of a fruitier wine. Nowadays, the oaky style has been toned down and this versatile grape is gaining in popularity thanks to enlightened winemaking techniques and a desire to produce new interpretations of this wonderfully diverse varietal.

6. Did you know?
Chardonnay is the most planted white wine grape in the world.

 Chardonnay grapes by Carollen Coenen
7. Food and Chardonnay
The many different styles of Chardonnay make it an incredibly versatile pairing to food. It matches very well with poultry, pork and seafood. Dishes with a heavy cream or butter base also will be an excellent match for an oaked Chardonnay. Goat’s cheese also makes for a delicious accompaniment to a glass of Chardonnay.
Salads, fish and seafood would be ideal with an unoaked chardonnay.

8. An International Wine Grape
This grape is as international as wine grapes go. France, Italy, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are the main countries that grow this variety.

9. White Burgundy
Burgundy is one of the most famous wine regions in the world, and White and Red Burgundies are known to be of the highest quality, made out of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir respectively. The main appellations are Chablis, in the North, Côte de Beaune in the middle, home to Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet, and the Mâconnais in the South.

“White Burgundy has for generations been thought of as the world’s leading dry white wine”
Oz Clarke, Pocket Wine A-Z 2015

Saint-Père, Burgundy by Lexe-I

10. Pouilly-Fuissé vs Pouilly-Fumé
Pouilly-Fumé and Pouillé-Fuissé are very different. The latter is from the Mâconnais sub-region of Burgundy and often confused with the similarly named Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) Sancerre, from the Loire Valley.
Main blog image from Burgundy by Megan Cole

Written by: Lucy Prosser

Lucy Prosser 


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