All about Chardonnay
Chardonnay is the world’s most popular grape used in white wines. This green-skinned grape is a result of cross pollination between Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Gouais Blanc, centuries ago. Its ability to absorb nutrients and pick up the flavors of an array of soils makes it the 5th most widely planted grape for white wines in the world. Its flavors can vary drastically depending on the location it’s produced in. It can take on light, crisp, mineral flavors of Old World, unoaked wines in Chablis, France to oaked, New World, California versions that portray nutty, buttery and tropical fruit aromas. Chardonnay grapes are mostly produced to create 100% Chardonnay wines but are also used in a variety of white wine blends, such as Champagne.
Are you looking for a Chardonnay that is sweet or one that is unoaked or one that fills your palate with buttery warmth? Heavily influenced by soil, climate and aging, Chardonnay can take on a multitude of flavor profiles to fit your every need. In general it is a dry, medium-bodied white wine with moderate acidity ranging from bright straw to saturated gold in color. Chardonnay flavors can express hints of lemon zest, green apple and grapefruit when unoaked, but if the wine is aged in oak barrels the flavor profile will take on fuller, oaked aromas with a lingering buttery finish and notes of vanilla and spice.
Each Chardonnay has something different to offer the palate, so be sure to check out our individual tasting notes in the description section for each item.
Did you know where Chardonnay originated? Its birthplace is considered to be Burgundy, France, otherwise known as “white Burgundy.” Its range in soils and climate across the region allows for growers to produce a vast array of unique vintages. On the outskirts of France’s wine country, the sediment consists of limestone and clay, yielding to more vibrant, acidic wines. As you move further inland the harsher climate produces grapes with more character and complexity. Its northernly location offers an ideal ripening climate for the grape, picking it at a barely-ripe state to keep a stricter, steelier lemony, green-apple fruit. It is here that some of the world’s most expensive bottlings are produced, holding powerful and rich flavors of earth essence and mineral aromas. Typically, Burgundian Chardonnay is zesty and fresh, particularly in Chablis, a wine district close to Champagne whose production is 100% Chardonnay.
Chardonnay is one of the three main varietals used in the famous sparkling wines produced in Champagne, France. The freshness, elegance and delicacy of this grape makes it a star performer in Champagne. Although commonly combined with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay can also be made solely into a Champagne labeled Blanc de Blancs. Located at the northern edge of France, it offers lower average temperatures than any other French wine region. With a cool climate and the influence of steady rainfall and low levels of sunshine cause the grapes to barely ripen, giving them the freshness and crispness that Champagne requires. The soil also differs from much of France’s wine country, it’s chalky, finer-grained and more porous, allowing for a natural drainage system and ideal growing conditions.
Introduced to California in the 1800’s, Chardonnay has become part of the top seven most widely grown varietals in the state, producing both oaked and unoaked versions. Almost all their AVAs cultivate Chardonnay, proving the grape’s propensity for thriving in the region’s diverse soils and varying climates. The popularity of this grape expands throughout California’s cooler climates, such as the Santa Maria Valley, producing unoaked crispy, citrusy wines to warmer regions such as Napa Valley where the grape develops a rounder, richer and oaky flavor expected in oaked vintage. The production of the multifaceted wine can even range from organic and lower alcohol to vegan. Explore your options by speaking with one of our expert wine consultants at a store near you.
Chardonnay’s expansive flavor profiles allow for a range of food pairings. If you’re sipping on an oaked, New World Chardonnay, pair it with richer dishes, such as steak and seafood with creamy sauces to balance the buttery components. For something simple, pick a cheddar cheese, this mild cheese will enhance the nutty, oak flavors of the wine. Going for an Old World, unoaked varietal? Stick to light, delicate dishes with fresh flavors, such as grilled fish or chicken. These foods will complement the smooth, buttery fruit-forward flavors. Each wine differs, so make sure to scope out our “Pairs well with” section next to each bottle.
Already in love with Chardonnay? Here are some other varietals you should try based on your taste.
Stylistically Chardonnay can be all over the board from rich, complex and creamy to lean and crisp with zingy acidity. If you tend to favor the richer style, try a Viognier or an Arneis, both good choices. Garganega, the primary grape of Soave is steely and minerally, with apricot and yellow apple flavors. A final suggestion would be a dry Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley. This wine has intense honeyed apple flavors and mouthwatering acidity.