Chardonnay Wine (Style, Taste, Best Wines to Buy in 2022) Want to know all about Chardonnay wine and buy a few bottles of this famous white wine for your wine cellar?
The Chardonnay grape is prevalent with winegrowers because it is easy to grow, complex, and adaptable. Some have even nicknamed it the “red wine of all whites” because it undergoes a fermentation process similar to red wines!
But what sets Chardonnay apart from other white wines? Why is this wine so versatile and popular? What Chardonnay Wines Are Storage in Your Wine Cellar?
In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about Chardonnay wine – from viticulture, how it is made, how it should be served, and some fantastic food and wine pairings that go with it.
We’ll also give you a list of the best Chardonnay wines you should try and the most innovative way to buy a Chardonnay or wines like Dom Pérignon or Beaujolais Nouveau!
- What is chardonnay?
- A brief history of Chardonnay
- 7 interesting facts about Chardonnay wine
- Chardonnay winemaking techniques
- The different styles of Chardonnay fermentation
- What does Chardonnay wines taste like?
- How to serve Chardonnay wine
- Food and wine pairings of Chardonnay
- Best Chardonnay Wines You Can Buy In 2021
What is Chardonnay?
Chardonnay is the green-skinned grape used in the production of white wines, Champagne and sparkling wines (Blanc de Blancs).
While other white wines get their name from the grape’s region, Chardonnay wines get their name from the grape used to produce it.
Very adaptable, the Chardonnay grape variety draws its flavour from the terroir and the oak used during viticulture and winemaking. It allows winemakers to experiment and leave their unique style on each bottle of Chardonnay they produce.
A brief history of Chardonnay
The Chardonnay grape originates from the Burgundy wine region in eastern France.
Its popularity peaked in the 1980s. Today, Chardonnay is cultivated and produced worldwide, from Napa Valley to New Zealand.
Chardonnay wines have different names in different parts of the world. For example: Chablis, Pouilly-Fuissé, Montrachet and Meursault are Chardonnay wines produced in certain regions.
Recent research at the University of California, Davis, suggests that Chardonnay should come from a couple of Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Gouais Blanc Grapes.
How did this crossing happen?
It may have happened centuries ago when the Romans planted Gouais Blanc on French soil, where Pinot Noir also grew.
Here are many more exciting facts about Chardonnay.
Seven interesting facts about Chardonnay wine
Chardonnay can grow almost anywhere.
With 210,000 hectares planted worldwide, the versatile Chardonnay also thrives in the wine regions of the Old World and the New World.
( What is the Old World and the New World?
The Old World refers to traditional European wine regions. The New World refers to the Americas and other wine regions. Additionally, the Old World uses more conventional winemaking techniques, including fermenting their wine, and the New World has been quicker in trying new technologies.)
Chardonnay production figures exceed Pinot Noir in Burgundy.
When we think of a good Burgundy Wine, we’ll probably think of red Pinot Noir wines. Is it because the word Bourgogne is reminiscent of the shade of red wine?
But in figures, Chardonnay represents 60% of the production of Burgundy wines.
Chardonnay is a bestseller in the United States.
Chardonnay is the best-selling white wine in America, with nearly 900,000 bottles consumed per year.
Blanc De Blancs Champagne are 100% Chardonnay
The most popular champagnes blend Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier. Champagne Blanc de Blancs is made entirely from white wine grapes, generally Chardonnay.
A favourite of the queen!
Around 800 AD, Luitgard, the wife of Franconian Emperor Charlemagne, hated how red wine-stained her husband’s beard. She then ordered the white grapes (Chardonnay) to be planted in their vineyard. This region, Corton-Charlemagne, is now known for some of the best white Burgundies.
An award-winning chardonnay
The 1969 vintage of Chateau Montelena Chardonnay was among the big contenders at the famous “Judgment of Paris” tasting in 1976. It put California on the international map of excellent white wine.
Known as the ‘red wine’ of the whites
Chardonnay is the red wine of whites because of two unique stages in its vinification: fermentation in barrels and fermentation with malolactic acid. (Read more about this in the Chardonnay Winemaking Techniques section below.)
Chardonnay: viticulture and winemaking techniques
Let’s see how this famous wine is made.
the viticulture of Chardonnay grapes
Chardonnay grapes are malleable enough to take on the influences of the terroir and winemaking processes, making them even more exciting to grow.
Due to its vigorous vine and large foliage, bunches of Chardonnay grapes have difficulty getting the energy and nutrients they need to grow successfully.
Canopy management and aggressive pruning are common ways vineyard managers counter this challenge. They densely plant Chardonnay vines to make them compete for energy.
When it comes to harvesting, time is of the essence. If you take too long to harvest the grapes, they will start to lose their acidity quickly after they ripen.
Chardonnay is an early vine, making it perfect for growing in areas with short seasons. For example, in Burgundy, it can be harvested before the autumn rains arrive and the threat of rot is avoided.
How is Chardonnay different from Pinot Blanc?
There are many similarities between Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. Both can produce a mellow, semi-dry white wine, and their grapes are almost identical.
So what makes them so different?
Here are the subtle differences between Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc:
- Grape Color: Chardonnay grapes take on a more golden-green colour as they ripen. On the other hand, pinot blanc grapes remain a grassy green tint.
- On the vine: The Chardonnay clusters are cylindrical to conical in shape. Pinot blanc grapes grow in small groups surrounded by dark green leaves.
- Oak influence: One method that can be used to ripen Chardonnay is to add an oak influence. Pinot Blanc has the potential for this, but it’s not a popular option.
- Sparkling Wine vs Champagne: Pinot Blanc has a sweet, crunchy, and light profile, favouring sparkling and dessert wines. The Chardonnay grape is the first choice for the production of Champagne.
- Ageing: Chardonnay wine has excellent longevity. Most Chardonnays generally age well for 5-7 years (but some white Grand Cru Burgundies like Montrachet can age for over a decade.)
One thing to remember is that an older Chardonnay won’t taste the same as its younger self. The fresh fruit flavours will fade, and more spicy and nutty flavours will come to the fore.
Chardonnay winemaking techniques
Chardonnay is diverse and allows the winemaker to mix, match and experiment with different winemaking styles. But it is the degree of oak used and the malolactic fermentation that affects the result.
The “butter” in Chardonnay occurs when the malolactic fermentation process turns malic acid into milder lactic acid. Interestingly, Chardonnay and Viognier are rare white wines that undergo malolactic fermentation like all red wines. During or after fermentation, oak can be introduced to give it a sweeter taste profile.
The fermentation temperature and the ageing time of the wine on lees are the other factors that influence its taste.
For example, a more excellent fermentation produces more fruity flavours like pineapple. Some winegrowers even amplify contact with the lees by “stirring” the wine during ageing (Battonage).
Now that we are well acquainted with the Chardonnay grape and its wine let’s see how the different styles bring out the other profiles.
What is the difference between Chardonnay Oaked and Chardonnay Non-Boisé?
Chardonnay wine can be divided into two different styles: oaky and unoaked wine. One is aged in oak barrels and the other in stainless steel barrels.
When Chardonnay is aged in oak barrels, the wine is exposed to more oxygen. It also influences the taste of Chardonnay wine. (We’ll tell you about that in a moment.)
What do Chardonnay wine taste like?
The Chardonnay grape variety is influenced by the terroir and the vinification techniques used, and it is difficult to identify the taste characteristics.
To fully understand the different tastes and flavours, we must consider the fermentation process and the climates.
Different climates and how they affect the taste of Chardonnay wines
As Chardonnay is cultivated successfully worldwide, it exposes the grape to different climates, influencing its flavour.
1. Cooler climate:
Growing Chardonnay in a cool climate produces a lighter and more elegant white wine. It generally has a citrus flavour and a higher level of acidity. Its fruity flavours will remind you of green apples, pears and plums.
Cooler regions: Burgundy, Champagne, Germany, Austria, Northern Italy, Ontario, Sonoma Coast, Anderson Valley, Willamette Valley, Tasmania, Argentina, Mornington Peninsula, New Zealand, Sonoma County, Chile and Valley by Leyda
2. Warmer climate:
When Chardonnay is grown in a warm climate, the wine will still have fruity flavours. You will also be greeted with lovely flavours of tropical fruits like kiwi and mango.
Warmer regions: Spain, Southern Italy, California (Napa County), South Australia and South Africa.
How does the fermentation process influence the flavours of Chardonnay?
We know that the fermentation process affects the taste of Chardonnay. But, what flavours can you expect from woody and unoaked Chardonnay?
Dried Chardonnay: The more complex style of the two, woody Chardonnay, is considered a milder white wine. Chardonnay Oaked has a whole body, rich texture and aromas of vanilla and toffee. It delights your senses with a creamy, buttery taste, with hints of hazelnut, honey and caramel.
Unoaked Chardonnay: If you are looking for a dry, crisp and refreshing white wine, Unoaked Chardonnay is your best option. Unoaked Chardonnay is fermented using stainless steel barrels, giving it a crisper taste.
Unlike woody Chardonnay, unoaked or “naked”, Chardonnay has a lighter body and brighter colour. You will be mesmerized by the bouquet of green apples, limes and peaches paired with various unoaked chardonnays.
How to serve Chardonnay wine
The perfect temperature for Chardonnay
To bring out the aroma and flavour of your Chardonnay wine, let your Chardonnay cool for at least an hour before serving it:
- Unoaked Chardonnay: chill to 10 ° C (50 ° F)
- Baked Chardonnay: cool to 55 ° F (12.7 ° C)
If you have any Chardonnay left, keep it capped and in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 days after opening.
Glasses to use for serving Chardonnay
Usually, when people drink a glass of Chardonnay, they use a glass of regular white wine. But, all it does is accent the oak.
To enjoy a glass of Chardonnay, you have to bring out all the flavours in the wine.
So, use a glass of wine that has:
- A giant bowl will allow the heavier layers and aromas to come out,
- A wide rim guides the wine from one side of your palate to the other.
Are you wondering which foods to pair Chardonnay with?
Chardonnay Wine Style, Taste, Best Wines to Buy in 2022