Chardonnay is a non-aromatic white grape variety originating from France. It is a relatively easy grape to work with for a couple reasons. First, it can be grown successfully in a variety of different climates, from cool Chablis, France to hot California. Second, its neutral flavors give wine-makers wide latitude to play around with it in the winery in order to make an array of unique tastes. Depending on the climate, its flavors can range from green and citrus fruits in cooler growing zones to tropical fruits in warm and hot areas.
As an extremely versatile grape, Chardonnay can be lean or creamy, oaked or unoaked, simple or complex. When wine-makers want to produce a creamier style, they allow MLF (Malolactic Fermentation/Conversion) to take place after fermentation where the tart malic acids are converted into softer lactic acids-thereby creating a creamy and buttery taste. Premium versions can also be aged in oak or the bottle to develop tertiary flavors of hazelnut and mushroom.
Chardonnay is the famed white grape of Burgundy, France. Here, it is one of two white grapes allowed to be grown under the Burgundy AOC classification (the other is Aligote.) It is famously grown in the Côte d’ Or (Slopes of Gold), where some of its most well-known expressions come from the French Villages of Beaune, Meursault, Pugligny-Montrachet, and Chasagne-Montrachet. Two of the most premium productions are from Chablis in the north where it tastes lean and steely, and Pouilly-Fuisse in the southern Macconais where it takes on riper and tropical flavors.
Around the World
Because of its great range of expressions, Chardonnay is widely planted across the world in an array of climates. Hot Central Valley in California is known for producing inexpensive and high-volume Chardonnay. Premium versions can be found in cooler areas off the coast in Sonoma and Napa, particularly in the Carneros AVA (American Viticulture Area.) It is also widely planted in northern Oregon where it portrays high acid and tropical fruit flavors. Many different expressions of Chardonnay can also be found in Australia, Chile, South Africa and New Zealand.
Chardonnay pairs well with delicate seafood like lobster, shrimp, sushi and halibut. Sage butter sauces and flaky white fish tend to compliment the highly acidic grape. In addition, its often enjoyed with grilled pork chops, mushroom pasta and salad.
Follow me for more wine education and tips!
2 thoughts on “Unpolished Grape Series: Chardonnay”