Chardonnay (shar-dun-nay) originated in Burgundy, France and is the most popular white grape in the world. This varietal is grown everywhere in the New World (everywhere that isn’t Europe) and is well established in the Old World (Europe).
Chardonnay wine is medium to full-bodied, dry in style, with medium-high acidity. It can be high in alcohol with some being as powerful as red wine. The Chardonnay grape can produce light to medium tannins and is typically aged in new oak barrels. It has the ability to improve with age and should be consumed out of a white wine glass. It has a shelf life over five-plus years and the average cost is $15 – $30.
The buttery flavors in Chardonnay wine also come from the terroir (and the oak-barrels). Generally, wines from warmer regions will be oaked and turned into this style of wine, meaning low acidity. If you choose a wine from a warmer climate that is oaked, expect tropical fruits such as pineapple or mango. Cooler climates will have leaner wines with green apple and citrus notes. Some chardonnays are “unoaked” and are aged in stainless steel tanks. These wines will be lighter, medium bodied wines with fewer buttery flavors.
Chardonnay is vital to the production of Champagne. Champagne can have dramatically different characteristics depending on the climate. The winemakers in Champagne look for the finesse and balance of acidity that it brings to the blend together. Some of the most prestigious wineries are located within Champagne.
Wente in Livermore, California is famous for cloning Chardonnay from Burgundy in 1912. That clone, called the Wente clone, is the source material for nearly 80% of American Chardonnay plantings today. Look for Chardonnay from Livermore Valley, Napa Valley, Sonoma and Monterey. Walla Walla, WA, Oregon and the Finger Lakes in New York are also producing excellent Chardonnay’s.
If you are after New Zealand Chardonnay, check out the Malborough region for big, bold and fruity wines. These wines tend to be oaked but offer great complexity.
Being the most produced white wine in Australia, there are plenty of regions to choose from when it comes to Australian Chardonnay. Cooler climates such as the Yarra Valley, Eden Valley, and Adelaide Hills are great if you are after cleaner finishes on your wine and less oaked Chardonnay.
Chardonnay pairs best with Chicken, Creamy and Buttery dishes, Risotto, Shellfish, Thyme, Shallots, Brioche, Goat Cheese, Sheep’s Milk.