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Chardonnay Grape Variety

chardonnay grapes on a vine

(Shar-doh-NAY)

Chardonnay Origins

Chardonnay is one of the most popular white wine grapes in the world and has led to incredible notoriety for many new and developing wine regions. This grape is believed to have originated in the subregion Mâconnais (mack-kohn-NAY) of Burgundy, France. The grape is extremely adaptable to different climates and winemaking techniques—virtually anywhere there are vineyards, Chardonnay is ever present. It was a California Chardonnay wine that was responsible for bringing great fame to California (and overall the New World) back in 1976. The famous “Judgment of Paris” wine tasting placed the best white and red wines of France against California. Chateau Montelena winery took first place for the Chardonnay category beating the French and several other California wines.

Cool vs warm climate Chardonnay Flavor Profiles

The Chardonnay grape itself is fairly neutral and is unusually adaptable both to its surroundings and winemaking techniques. It is sometimes thought of as a painter’s “blank canvas,” as the grape is quite moldable and has the ability to be influenced greatly by the winemaker. The primary flavors in cool climates include tree fruits (apple and pear), citrus fruit (lemon), and earth (mineral and wet stone) while flavors in warm climates include tropical fruits (pineapple, fig, banana, and mango). Secondary flavors derived from winemaking techniques are commonly associated with bakeshop (vanilla, butter, honey, toast, butterscotch, cinnamon, and clove).

Chardonnay Structural Components

Chardonnay can range from a medium to full body. It showcases a medium body when aged in stainless steel or neutral oak and full-bodied and rich, when aged in new oak. California versions can yield high alcohol (from the warmer climate and the extensive hang-time concept), which arguably can produce a wine to be considered out of balance.

Chardonnay Food Pairings

What food goes well with different styles of Chardonnay? Young, unoaked and cool climate Chardonnay will pair nicely with light and delicate dishes, such as grilled fish or poultry, and raw or lightly cooked shellfish. Oysters are. a perfect match! Spring vegetables and salads as well as creamy soups would also make a nice Chardonnay wine pairing. Fruit forward styles of Chardonnay food matches include crab cakes, salmon, risotto, pastas in creamy sauces and even mild curry. If you’re looking to pair an oaky, full bodied Chardonnay, try richer versions of above mentioned dishes. Go for an eggs benedict, or grilled veal chops and pork. Butternut squash, pumpkin and other late summer vegetables will also pair nicely. Think pumpkin ravioli, or grilled eggplant and more. Cheddar cheese (or cheesy dishes such as Mac and Cheese) would also make a fantastic pairing. Chardonnays that are 3-8 years of age and barrel fermented make nice wines for umami-rich foods. Try it with roast chicken, lobster, scallops. This style of Chardonnay would also be great with Thanksgiving turkey, wild mushroom recipes and white truffle sauces. Find more information here or watch the video below.

Chardonnay Serving Tips

In general, white wines like Chardonnay should be served chilled to about 50-55ºF. If you serve Chardonnay too warm, the perception of alcohol will be too strong, and the wine will feet “hot” or “spicy”. Flavors and aromas would also feel muted. Chill white wines in the fridge for 15-20 minutes before serving. On the other hand, don’t serve. it colder than 45ºF. Serve Chardonnay in a stemmed white wine glass, filling it to the widest part of the bowl.  Be sure to hold the glass by the stem. Holding the glass by the bowl will warm the wine faster altering the flavors. and aromas. 

Chardonnay Growing Locations

Chardonnay has grown prevalent throughout the wine world and has become ubiquitous in both the Old and the New World wine-producing countries. In France, Chardonnay is most reputable in the regions of Burgundy and is vitally important in Champagne. In the New World, Chardonnay is significant in California (Carneros, Russian River, Sonoma Coast, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, and Monterrey), Australia (Margaret River), New Zealand, and Chile (Casablanca Valley and Maipó).

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