Chardonnay is one of the most popular white medium-bodied wines in the world. It is a French wine made from the grape of the same name, it’s easy to cultivate and adapts quickly to different climate conditions. It mainly grows and is produced in the Burgundy region.
The wine takes its name from the wine producing province of Chardonnay, Burgundy, which is located in the central eastern part of France. The region is known internationally for its long winemaking tradition.
Like many other wines, Chardonnay is a complex drink with many characteristics that make it different to other wines. This article is going to give you a brief understanding of many aspects of Chardonnay, including everything from the basic information to the best one to try, including its history, the climate and regions where the wine develops best, its flavor characteristics, the food pairing it goes better with and so much more.
Table of Contents
- Basic Information about Chardonnay
- Flavor Profile of Chardonnay
- Terroir & Climate
- Types of Chardonnay
- Chardonnay History
- Regions Famous for Chardonnay
- How to Pair Chardonnay with Food
- Best Chardonnays to Try
- Facts About Chardonnay
- Chardonnay FAQ’s
- Final Notes
Basic Information About Chardonnay
Chardonnay is one of the best-selling wines in the world and is a favorite type of wine in many countries. Chardonnay grapes are light green in color, robust and healthy and easy to grow. They grow everywhere in the world, with a pleasant flavor that pairs excellently with a wide variety of dishes.
Where is Chardonnay Grown?
Chardonnay wine is originally produced in one of the most famous French wine regions: Burgundy. The town of Chardonnay is located in the department of Saône-et-Loire of the French region of Bourgogne. However, due to its success, today it is grown in practically all wine producing areas on all five continents.
For new and developing winegrowing regions, it is considered an easy entry due to its ease of growth and the success of its elaborations. It is a very neutral grape variety. The Chardonnay grape has many of the flavors commonly associated with terroir and oak and is vinified in very different styles in different regions of the world.
What are the Characteristics of Chardonnay?
Chardonnay adapts very well to the characteristics of the terroir in which it is grown. Thus, even if it is of the same variety, a Chardonnay wine can have different characteristics from one place to another even from the same appellation, one from a warmer area such as California and another from Burgundy. The one from California will generate mainly tropical fruit aromas, while the one from Burgundy will offer apple and citrus aromas.
Likewise, the aging process in barrels is also important in the characteristics of the wine. A Chardonnay matured in barrels will have a creamy texture, a full body and distinctive aromas of vanilla, butter, caramel and cinnamon.
Flavor Profile of Chardonnay
Chardonnay is a dry or medium dry wine, powerful, fruity, with good acidity and shows a pale, straw-like yellow color.
Chardonnay has characteristic unripe aromas of green apples. Wines produced in cooler climates have remarkable acidity with aromas of citrus, pear, acacia, and tropical fruits. Those from warmer climates have aromas of tropical fruits such as mango, pineapple, banana, melon and may contain some spice or caramel. Wines aged in oak barrels offer notes of vanilla, honey and butter.
Depending on the area where this variety is produced, different aromas will be found. Chardonnay from Australia has exotic notes and those from Burgundy have aromas of butter and pastries.
In terms of flavor, Chardonnay does not have excessive acidity as it is a very smooth wine. Fruits such as apple, melon or citrus are felt on the palate. Sweet flavors of honey, caramel and dulce de leche are also present as well as some mineral flavors.
Chardonnay can be consumed young, without oak flavor, and those that have been aged in oak improve in bottle between three and five years.
Climate & Terroir of Chardonnay
The climate and the soil cause the grape to generate a wide range of quality wines, very different from each other. It means that in every region of the world, Chardonnay has different characteristics, even being of the same appellation.
In areas with cold climates, the Chardonnay grape produces steely, fine wines with marked acidity, in which notes of green fruit such as pear or apple can be found.
In temperate climates, the Chardonnay variety presents notes of citrus and peach, while in warm climates it presents notes of banana, mango and fig. Acidity decreases and alcohol increases, resulting in wines with a strong and wonderful body.
However, to give a final flavor to the wine, there is also the personal factor of the winemaker who can apply different techniques. One such technique is the application of malolactic fermentation (a second fermentation that is intended to reduce the acidic sensation of the wine and make it softer), which adds flavors of butter and hazelnuts to the wine. Another possibility is the time spent in oak, from fermentation to aging, which adds a suggestive tannic complexity; rich, toasty and nutty flavors. On many occasions, bâtonnage is also used, which consists of stirring the lees (dead yeast remaining in the wine) to give the wine an unctuous flavor.
Types of Chardonnay
Chardonel is a white grape variety resulting from the crossbreeding of Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc, created in the United States in 1990. It produces high quality wines, is very productive and is more resistant to cold and disease than Chardonnay. However, it does keep much of the flavor qualities and the distinctive acidity of that variety. It is great as a sparkling wine because of its high natural acidity and crisp green apple flavors.
Chardonel is more similar to Chardonnay than Seyval Blanc, as it requires a long growing period to reach optimum maturity. The ripe berries are amber in color. It is grown mainly in the U.S. states of Arkansas, Michigan and Missouri, but they are also grown in Italy, Spain and Argentina.
Chardonnel wines vary according to the style of winemaking. If aged in oak, the wine will have a rich, creamy character with notes of oak, apple and some spice, while if produced without oak, they will have more citrus and apple notes with a light, crisp finish.
Chardonel goes well with creamy white cheeses, grilled chicken, mushrooms and apple dishes. It is the ideal wine for dinners, parties or simply for an evening with friends.
Chardonnay Rosé is a pink-colored genetic mutation of the Chardonnay grape from the village of Marsannay, near the town of Chardonnay in southern Burgundy and which is very difficult to find.
Chardonnay rosé ripens slightly later, is less productive than Chardonnay and is slightly less sensitive to gray rot. Its clusters are small and compact, the berries are small to medium in size and simple in flavor. It produces slightly less acidic and slightly sweeter wines than Chardonnay.
As for food pairing, Chardonnay Rosé goes extremely well with zucchini and lemon risotto, lemon chicken and mushrooms, as well as baked salmon with fennel salad.
Chardonnay Blanc Musqué
Chardonnay Blanc Musqué is an aromatic mutation of the Chardonnay grape, grown mainly in vineyards in Canada and the United States, whose berries have a musky tone.
The wine’s name “musqué” comes from the aromatic and musky perfume that this variety has. Chardonnay Musqué wine is off-dry, medium-bodied, has subtle acidity and a grapey, muscat-like aroma. It can also be light-bodied if aged without oak and fermented in stainless steel. It has an alcohol content of 12%.
Chardonnay Musqué can have other flavors and aromas depending on the region and the winemaker. These can range from tropical fruits to cinnamon-flavored lemon sorbet.
As for food pairing, the Chardonnay Musqué wine goes perfectly with Thai food, seafood such as fried mackerel with peas and crab cakes, grilled chicken with spices, and lentils with fresh herbs and lemon.
History of Chardonnay
The true origins of Chardonnay are not so clear. It is believed that it may have started in the Middle East, in Lebanon and Syria, from where it was introduced to Europe by the Crusaders who returned after the Holy Wars. Another theory states that it originated from an ancient indigenous vine found in Cyprus.
However, modern DNA fingerprinting research conducted at a California university now suggests that Chardonnay is the result of a cross between the Pinot noir and Gouais blanc grape varieties.
- First centuries- It is believed that the Romans brought Gouais blanc from Croatia, and it was widely cultivated by the peasants of eastern France.
- 10th century- The cultivation of the Chardonnay vine is mentioned in Burgundy.
- Middle Ages- Chardonnay was first spread by Catholic monks in French vineyards, where it acquired its different appellations.
- Mid-18th century- Chardonnay was recognized as a new grape species and no longer as just another variety.
- 19th century- Chardonnay arrived in New World countries.
- 1985- A team of researchers identified its origin through an analysis of genetic mutations, stating that it is a grape variety of Burgundian origin from the cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc.
- Today- Chardonnay is the eighth most cultivated grape variety in the world, grown in 41 countries. The first country in terms of cultivation area is France, followed by the United States and Australia.
Regions Chardonnay is Grown In
The Chardonnay grape can withstand a wide variety of growing conditions; however, this does not mean that the quality is always high, it also depends a lot on the winemakers and the aging conditions. It is easy to grow, but making great Chardonnay wine is not always for everyone.
The production of Chardonnay is worldwide, in the five continents from Europe to Australia, from the US to Japan. The following are the main producing regions of this white wine.
The place of origin of Chardonnay is Burgundy, which produces wines that can take more than 10 years to reach their peak of complexity – thus giving rise to the internationally known white wines.
Likewise, the Chardonnay grape is produced in the Champagne region where it is harvested early, in the first stages of ripening. The result is a grape that produces wines that are less fruity and more acidic, essential characteristics in the production of sparkling wine produced in the region, which is made primarily from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier grapes.
The United States
California produces the largest quantity of wines in this country and they are traditionally kept in wooden barrels, resulting in wines with more body, higher alcohol content, low acidity, with notes of wood and slightly buttery nuts.
While the other producers mentioned above usually make wines with Chardonnay grapes from a single region, Australian Chardonnays are usually made from a blend of Chardonnays produced in several different regions of the country, a fact that gives them different aromas of tropical fruits such as melon, fig, banana, among others.
South America, South Africa and New Zealand
In Argentina and Chile, Chardonnay has gained ground and developed a lot. In these places, the grape produces very fruity wines.
In Brazil, specifically in Rio Grande do Sul, the Chardonnay grape bears excellent fruit for the production of sparkling wines, demonstrating that the soils are very good for the production of this white grape variety.
In South Africa, Chardonnay has excellent results, especially in the cooler regions, and in New Zealand, Chardonnay wines are known to be the strongest in the “New World”.
How to Pair Chardonnay with Food
Chardonnay is a very suitable wine for many types of food thanks to its acidity and fruity aromas. The light and easy to drink wines go very well with cheeses, white meat and seafood.
When pairing food and wine, there are six flavor profiles that must be taken into account as well as the way they complement each other. These flavors are:
Once the way these flavors work together is clearly understood, it will be an easy task to pair food and wine without any problem.
Flavor Profiles that Don’t Go Together
Bitter is a hard profile to pair with. In wine, bitterness is caused by tannins, making a heavily tannic wine harder to pair. Bitterness usually does not pair well with sour or spicy flavors. This means that if you have a crisp wine, it will not taste well with a spicy or bitter dish.
Flavor Profiles that Do Go Together
While there are some pairings that classically match better than others, a lot of wine tasting and pairing comes down to personal choice. When pairing food and wine you can choose to pair congruently, meaning that the flavors work together, such as a salad with a zesty lemon dressing with a crisp and fresh wine.
Likewise, you can also choose to pair complementary, which means that the opposing flavors of the wine work together to elevate each flavor. This could be the crisp flavors of Sauvignon and a creamy pasta dish like chicken alfredo. There is a lot to know about wine pairing, so taking the time to find out a little more research will help a lot.
Chardonnay is easy to combine, having an exceptional fruit flavor and aroma, you can take it anywhere.
Chardonnay should be served in a universal and exceptional glass Royal Glass at a temperature of 8° to 10° C to enjoy its aroma, flavor, texture and multiple registers. Aged wines should be served at 12°, while younger wines should be served at 5° to 7°.
Being a light, acidic and fruity wine, it is recommended to choose foods that have a similar intensity on the palate.
Chardonnay and meat
Chardonnay wines pair well with grilled turkey, roast poultry, and pork. Try pairing Chardonnay wines with savory meats such as chicken burgers; you will be surprised how well the intense, fruity and slightly acidic flavors of the wine work with these meats. If you are a vegetarian, salads also go well, especially with chicken. Vegetarian dishes with cherry tomatoes and spring onions also pair perfectly, especially with the full-bodied Chardonnay.
Chardonnay and Cheese
Chardonnay wines are one of the few wines that go well with cheeses, especially soft cheeses such as gruyère, edam, brie, goat cheese, parmesan or provolone. The key to pairing Chardonnay wines with cheese is that these wines have a very refined acidity that combines well with the mild flavor of the cheese.
Chardonnay and Sushi
Sushi is an elegant dish that pairs very well with the transparency and subtle acidity of a white wine such as Chardonnay. The delicacy of this dish, which is also dietary and healthy, thanks to the raw vegetables that retain all their substances without losing anything during cooking, is what makes this dish a perfect match for white wine.
Chardonnay and Fish or Seafood
Salmon, crab, lobster and shrimp dishes as well as fresh tuna and even fish soups, go excellently with a Chardonnay thanks to its delicate, never invasive flavor. The light acidic flavors combine perfectly and make the taste of these dishes and the wine complement each other very well.
Chardonnay and Appetizers
There are several appetizers that can pair really well with a Chardonnay like a fresh tuna tartare flavored and served with cherry tomatoes and avocado, Mediterranean style, or with spring onions and sesame. This combination goes really well due to the Chardonnay’s refined acidity and its mix of aromas such as pineapple, apple, pear, banana, vanilla and citrus.
Chardonnay and Salads
Chardonnay also goes very well with mild dressing salads like Caesar salad or one with cherry tomatoes and spring onions which have Mediterranean flavors. In general, all green leafy salads with mushrooms are great options. A simple and colorful bowl of fresh fruit, preferably seasonal and unsweetened is also another great choice. The pineapple, apple, pear, banana and citrus flavors and aromas of Chardonnay go excellently with vegetable and fruit salads.
Pairings According to Wine Age
Pairings can also be based on the age of your bottle of Chardonnay.
Young Chardonnay wines are usually fruity, with notes of peach, apple, banana and pineapple or pear and honey. Therefore, it will pair excellently with a platter of these cut fruits. Ideally, it should be eaten on its own with a spoonful of acacia honey.
More Mature Chardonnays
These Chardonnay wines have notes of ripe apple, vanilla and caramel, which makes them perfect for desserts such as a tarte tatin with lightly caramelized apples which is usually accompanied by vanilla custard or whipped cream.
Crianza Chardonnay wines have hints of passion fruit so they go well with a fish tartar, garnished with this fruit, evo oil, lime and pepper.
When Chardonnays have been aged in wood, they will have notes of vanilla, coffee and different nuances of almonds, butter, honey, hazelnuts and walnuts. These go very well with some toasted bread croutons with a little butter, a drizzle of honey, smoked salmon and toasted nuts ground into kernels. In fact, the taste of salmon loves acidity, which is natural in Chardonnay.
Chardonnay, like all effervescent wines, is perfect for degreasing the palate in case of unctuousness, so it will be perfect for greasy foods, including the fried ones.
Best Chardonnays to Try
As there are different types of Chardonnays, this is a good list that will help you decide on a good bottle to try.
Domaine Bruno Clair, Source des Roches, Marsannay, Burgundy, France 2015 – 93
This wine is a blend of Pinot Blanc (15%) with Chardonnay (85%) from Marsannay, Burgundy. This wine has a round, waxy, apricot-flavored character with mineral acidity and hints of lime and honey.
Domaine Jean-Baptiste Ponsot, Molesme, Rully 1er Cru, Burgundy, France 2017 – 93
This premier cru from Burgundy has a greenish-gold color, and heady aromas and flavors of lemon curd over toasty aromas. Likewise, it is fresh, with great acidity and has a spicy oak finish.
Marimar Estate, Acero Chardonnay, Don Miguel Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA 2017 – 93
Fresh in style, with harmonious aromas of orchard fruit and yellow citrus. Likewise, it has a well-balanced flavor, with lively sweet lemon acidity, savory tones and some creaminess with a hint of grapefruit and dried spice.
Ataraxia, Chardonnay, Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa 2017 – 93
One of South Africa’s best Chardonnays from Skyfields. It has 100% French oak barrel fermentation and nine months of aging. It boasts great weight, texture and smoky, toasty complexity with nectarine and lime flavors. This Chardonnay is a beautiful terroir wine, pure and elegant.
Miguel Torres, Cordillera Chardonnay, Limarí Valley, Chile 2019 – 91
This is a high-class, cool-climate Chardonnay. Its fermentation is partly in stainless steel and partly in oak. Fifty percent of the wine is aged in French barrels for 10 months. It has a restrained, elegant style underpinned by linear acidity, with clean citrus notes and a hint of creamy hazelnut and fresh, fruity aromas.
Learn more about Chardonnay with these fascinating Chardonnay facts:
- Its name derives from a village in Bourgogne, France that’s called Chardonnay, which the Romans called Cardonnacum (‘the area of thistles’, then Chardon, French word for thistle too).
- Chardonnay is the most popular white wine in the world and is also the most widely planted white grape variety (210,000 hectares of Chardonnay are planted worldwide), due to the fact that it is very easy to grow.
- The Chardonnay grape is one of the main components of many champagnes and sparkling wines. It is often the only grape used in Blanc de Blancs.
- Originating in France, the Chardonnay grape is now grown in almost every wine-growing region on the planet.
- The Chardonnay grape has a neutral flavor, so it tends to be produced in large quantities and at low cost. However, due to the quality, they also vary greatly in price.
- Chardonnay produces some of the most expensive wines in the world. The 5 most expensive Chardonnays range from $4,000 a bottle to over $11,000.
- Chardonnay wine has a great versatility and is highly valued gastronomically because it adapts to different cooking styles and dishes, its culinary combination is very wide.
- The main Chardonnay producing countries are France, in first place, followed closely by the United States, which has almost the same amount of Chardonnay planted as France, and then Australia.
- Legend has it that Chardonnay achieved its reputation for greatness in the Burgundy region of France around 800, when the wife of Emperor Charlemagne, displeased by the red wine that stained her husband’s white beard, ordered white grapes to be planted in her Burgundy vineyard.
- Some people are named Chardonnay, especially in the United Kingdom. The name became fashionable due to a character named Chardonnay in a 2002 TV series (Footballers’ Wives).
Is Chardonnay Sweet or Dry?
Chardonnay is a dry wine.
What Color is Chardonnay?
Chardonnay ranges from very pale yellow with hints of platinum to a saturated straw gold color. A really pale chardonnay is unoaked and zesty while a saturated golden one is most likely oaked and buttery in style.
What is the Alcohol Content of Chardonnay?
Chardonnay wines have a medium-high alcohol content of between 13.5% to 14.5%.
What Does Chardonnay Wine Taste Like?
Chardonnay is a dry, medium to full-bodied wine with average acidity and alcohol content.Its flavors and aromas range from apple and lemon to papaya and pineapple. It also has notes of vanilla when aged in oak.
How Many Calories are in a Glass of Chardonnay?
In a 150ml serving of Chardonnay (one small glass), there are about 120 calories.
Should Chardonnay be Chilled?
Chardonnay wines should be somewhat chilled and served a little below room temperature (around 10°C) in order to accentuate the refreshing fruit and acid notes that are naturally present.
Chardonnay can have different properties depending on the terroir and vinification process, but, as you’ve discovered, there are many common attributes which make this wine unique and explain why it is so beloved. With its distinct aromas, its relatively high alcohol and low acidity, it is easy to understand why this is one of the most popular white wines in the world. Now that you’ve learned a little about this world-famous wine, make sure to enjoy a refreshing glass to celebrate your new knowledge.