Top Food Pairings for Chardonnay





Chardonnay is a rarity among grape varieties as it can be grown in many different climates. From hot climates to cool, it will thrive and produce very different expressions: as a general rule, a cool climate will produce grapes that are quite high in acidity and that have green apple, citrus flavours, whereas the warmer the climate the riper and more tropical the fruit flavour, the lower the acidity and the higher the alcohol. Its attributes, however, are not just determined by its climate: its character is largely determined by technique and terroir.
 
One glass of Chardonnay can differ hugely from the next. It can be buttery, oaky, mineral-like or fruity, or a combination of these flavours. It is often oaked or fermented in the barrel, and it is this influence that creates a vanilla and nutty flavour in the wine.
 
“All over the world, producing Chardonnay has been seen as a rite of passage in new wine regions. Almost any wine producer with ambitions to belong to the great international club of wine grown-ups has to prove that he or she can make a Chardonnay, preferably a Chardonnay fermented and matured in new(ish) oak barrels the Burgundian way, with the best of them.”
Jancis Robinson
 
The many different styles of Chardonnay make it an incredibly versatile pairing with food.
 
 
Cool climate, unoaked chardonnay (such as Chablis)
 
This type of Chardonnay will normally be quite high in acidity and light in alcohol with green apple and citrus flavours.
 
Oysters by Alpha
 
This is a particularly good match for shellfish and grilled or steamed fish. Crabs, prawns and oysters make for a great match, as does smoked salmon. The high acidity of a Chardonnay like Chablis will cut through the oiliness of the smoked salmon. Chablis goes very well with light salads, grilled vegetables and simply flavoured chicken.
 
 
Lightly oaked Chardonnay (such as a Puligny Montrachet)
 
This type of Chardonnay is from further south in Burgundy, and so the fruit is a little riper and oak tends to be used.
 
 
 
Warm salmon with a slightly richer sauce (like a hollandaise or a buttery/creamy sauce) would be a great match for a lightly oaked White Burgundy. The richer flavours in fish pie or fish cakes are perfect for this style of wine. Sashimi and Sushi would also work very well. Grilled Lobster is delicious with a lightly oaked Chardonnay like Puligny Montrachet or even Meursault.
 

Fruitier, unoaked Chardonnays (from warmer climates such as the South of France, Chile and South Africa)
 
These Chardonnays will typically have more of a tropical, peach and melon flavour.
 
Fish Pie by Martin Thomas
 
The increase in tropical, fruit flavour means these Chardonnays will subsequently combine well with dishes with more flavour, although too rich a dish will drown out the flavour in the wine. Fish and white meat dishes with a more complicated sauce and meaty, cheesy salads will work well with these Chardonnays.
 

Fruitier, oaked Chardonnays (from America, Australia and Chile)
 
These Chardonnays will likely be full of ripe, tropical fruit and will be full-bodied, buttery, with higher alcohol levels and nutty, vanilla flavours from the time spent in oak.
 
 Spaghetti Carbonara by JeffreyW
 
These Chardonnays can stand up to and will pair very well with the richer, creamier, cheesier dishes. Creamy pasta dishes and Asian dishes with coconut milk will complement the rich, creamy flavours in the wine, although avoid very spicy dishes as this will accentuate the alcohol burn in the wine. Buttery, nutty dishes will work very well.
 
Main blog image by  John Morgan
 
 
 Have a look at our '10 Things to Know about Chardonnay' blog post too

 
 

Written by: Lucy Prosser

Lucy Prosser 

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