Wine producers adore the Chardonnay grape because it is simple and easy to cultivate. Also, it has a complex nature and is highly adaptable. Therefore, it has also been called the “red wine of all whites” because it goes through a similar fermentation process to red wines!

But to dive in deep and know more about this wine, let us read more about Chardonnay. And find out the answer to: 

  • How does Chardonnay distinguish from other white wines? 
  • Why is this wine so common and versatile? 
  • What does Chardonnay taste like?  
  • Which Chardonnay Wines Do You Keep in Your Wine Cellar? 

Let us find out all the answers to these questions. 

glass of chardonnay wine
Glass of Chardonnay wine

What is Chardonnay, exactly?

The green-skinned Chardonnay grape makes white wines, Champagne, and sparkling wines (Blanc de Blancs).

While other white wines are named after the grape area, Chardonnay wines are called after the grape used to make them.

The Chardonnay grape draws its flavor from the Oak and terroir used during the viticulture and vinification process. In fact, this encourages winemakers to try new things and stamp their mark on each bottle of Chardonnay they make.

Chardonnay’s Origins

The Chardonnay grape is native to the Burgundy wine region in Eastern France.

In the 1980s, it reached its pinnacle of success. From Napa Valley to New Zealand, Chardonnay is now grown and manufactured all over the world.

In various parts of the world, Chardonnay wines are known by different names. Chardonnay wines grown in specific regions include Chablis, Pouilly-Fuissé, Montrachet, and Meursault.

7 Interesting Facts about Chardonnay wine

1.Chardonnay is a grape that can be grown almost anywhere.

Chardonnay thrives in both Old World and New World wine areas, with 210 000 hectares planted worldwide.

What is the difference between the Old and New Worlds?

The term “old world” refers to the traditional wine-producing regions of Europe. The Americas and other wine regions are referred to as the “New World.” The Old World employs more conventional winemaking techniques, such as fermentation processes, while the Modern World has been quicker to adopt new technologies.

2.In Burgundy, Chardonnay wine production outnumbers Pinot Noir.

Red Pinot noir wines are most likely to come to mind when we think of a fine Burgundy wine. Is it that the word Burgundy conjures up images of red wine?

In terms of numbers, however, Chardonnay accounts for 60% of Burgundy’s wine production.

3.In the United States, Chardonnay wine is a top seller.

With nearly 900,000 bottles consumed per year, Chardonnay is the most common white wine in the United States.

4.Blanc De Blancs Champagne is made fully of Chardonnay grapes

Pinot noir, Chardonnay, and Meunier blends are the most common champagnes. Also, Blanc de Blancs Champagne is made solely of white wine grapes, most commonly Chardonnay.

5.A favorite of the Queen!

Luitgard, the wife of the Franconian Emperor Charlemagne, despised the way red wine-stained her husband’s beard around 800 AD. The white grapes (Chardonnay) were then ordered to be planted in their vineyard. Corton-Charlemagne is also recognized for producing some of the finest white Burgundies.

6.A Chardonnay wine that has won many awards

During the famed “Judgement of Paris” tasting in 1976, the 1969 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay vintage was included among the strong contenders. This helped put California on the map as a great white wine producer around the world.

7.Known as the white wine’s “red wine.”

Because of two distinct stages in its vinification (barrel fermentation and malolactic acid fermentation), Chardonnay is classified as the white wine’s red wine.

Chardonnay Winemaking Techniques and Viticulture

The viticulture of Chardonnay Grapes

Chardonnay grapes are adaptable enough to absorb the terroir’s and winemaking processes’ influences, making it even more exciting to develop.

Chardonnay grape clusters fail to get the energy and nutrients they need to thrive because of the heavy vine and thick leaf cover.

Vineyard managers commonly use canopy management and aggressive pruning to combat this problem. To make the Chardonnay grapevines compete for resources, they plant them densely.

When it comes to harvesting, timing is all. If you wait too long to harvest the grapes, they will lose their acidity quickly as they ripen.

Chardonnay is a vine that blooms early, making it ideal for growing in areas with limited growing seasons. In Burgundy, for example, it can be harvested before the autumn rains arrive, avoiding the risk of rot.

What distinguishes Chardonnay from Pinot Blanc?

When it comes to Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay, they both have a lot in common. Their grapes are nearly similar, and they can both make a smooth, semi-dry white wine.

So, what is the difference between them?

The slight distinctions between Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc are as follows:

1.Grape color

When Chardonnay grapes ripen, their color changes to a golden-green hue. Pinot blanc grapes, on the other hand, retain their grassy green color.

2.On the Vine

Chardonnay grape bundles are cylindrical to conical in shape on the vine. However, tiny bunches of Pinot blanc grapes are surrounded by dark-green leaves.

3.Oak Influence

Adding an oak influence to Chardonnay is one of the maturation methods available. Pinot blanc has this ability, but it is not a widely used grape.

4.Champagne vs. sparkling wine

Pinot blanc is a popular choice for sparkling and dessert wines because of its soft, crisp, and light profile. The Chardonnay grape is the most popular choice for Champagne production.

5.Aging

Chardonnay wine has a long shelf life. The majority of Chardonnays age well for about 5-7 years (but some Grand Cru white Burgundies like Montrachet can take more than a decade to age.)

Techniques for producing Chardonnay wine

Chardonnay is a versatile grape that allows the winemaker to mix, match, and experiment with various wine-making techniques and Chardonnay taste. However, the amount of Oak used and the amount of malolactic fermentation affect the finished product.

Chardonnay’s “butteriness” comes from the malolactic fermentation process, which results in transforming malic acid into a softer lactic acid. Both Chardonnay and Viognier are the only white wines that undergo malolactic fermentation in the same way that all red wines do. Therefore, Oak can be added before or after fermentation to give it a sweeter flavor profile.

Other factors that affect the wine’s flavor include the temperature of fermentation and the amount of time it spends aged on the lees.

Colder fermentation, for example, results in more fruity flavors like pineapple. Some winemakers also increase the amount of time the wine spends on the lees by “stirring up” the wine as it ages (Bâttonage).

What is the distinction between oaked and unoaked Chardonnay?

Chardonnay wine can further be divided into two categories: oaked and unoaked. The first is aged in an oak barrel, while the second is aged in a stainless steel barrel.

The Chardonnay is exposed to more oxygen as it matures in an Oak Barrel. This impacts the Chardonnay taste as well.

The effect of different climates on the flavor of Chardonnay wine

Since Chardonnay is grown successfully worldwide, it is exposed to a variety of climates, which influences its flavor.

Cooler Climate

Chardonnay grows best in cooler climates, resulting in a lighter, more elegant white wine. It usually has a citrus taste and a higher acidity level. It has a fruity flavor that tastes like green apples, pears, and plums. ‍

Burgundy, Champagne, Germany, Austria, Northern Italy, Ontario, Sonoma Coast, Anderson Valley, Willamette Valley, Tasmania, Argentina, Mornington Peninsula, New Zealand, Sonoma County, Chile, and Leyda Valley are some of the cooler regions.

Warmer Climate

Chardonnay grown in a warm climate retains its fruit-forward characteristics. Familiar tropical fruit flavors like kiwi and mango will also welcome you.

South Africa, Spain, Southern Italy, California (Napa County), and South Australia are among the warmer areas.

What effect does the fermentation process have on Chardonnay wine flavors?

Oaked Chardonnay

A sweeter white wine, oaked Chardonnay is the more nuanced of the two types. The full-body, rich texture and aromas of vanilla and butterscotch characterize this oaked Chardonnay. It has a rich buttery flavor with notes of hazelnut, honey, and caramel that appeal to your senses.

Unoaked Chardonnay

Unoaked Chardonnay is the best choice if you want a dry, clean, and refreshing white wine. Stainless steel barrels are used to ferment unoaked Chardonnay, giving it a crisper flavor.

Chardonnay wine ideal serving temperature

Before serving, chill your Chardonnay for at least an hour to bring out the fragrance and flavor of the wine:

  • Chill unoaked Chardonnay at 50°F (10°C).
  • Chill oaked Chardonnay at 55°F (12.7°C).

2021’s Best Chardonnay Wines

2005 Marcassin “Marcassin Vineyard” Sonoma Coast (US)

Marcassin Vineyards, owned by renowned winemaker Helen Turley and viticulturist John Wetlaufer, has established itself as one of the best and leading Sonoma Coast wine labels.

With aromas of fresh-cut white flowers, tangerines, brioche, and honeysuckle, this rich and full-bodied Chardonnay has a gold/green hue.

Price:$270.00 for 2005 Marcassin “Marcassin Vineyard” Sonoma Coast.

No. 1 Family Estate Cuvee Adele (NZ), 2013

This masterpiece is crafted by Daniel le Brun as a tribute to his wife, Adèle. It is available from the Pioneers of Marlborough Methode Traditionelle wines.

A mixture of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape varietals creates this tropical and balanced sparkling wine. It has notes of peach, grapefruit, tropical fruit, and new citrus and honey aromas.

Price:$150.00 for 2013 No. 1 Family Estate Cuvee Adele

Lucien Le Moine Montrachet Grand Cru (France), 2013 

This elegant white wine is made entirely of Chardonnay and is grown in the southern Côte de Beaune, a wine region renowned for producing some of the world’s best Chardonnay.

With aromas of orange blossom and lime cordial, this fine Chardonnay will captivate you. Citrus fruit, lime, almonds, and white chocolate flavors can tempt the taste buds.

A Lucien Le Moine Montrachet Grand Cru, 2013 will cost you $990.00.

Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet, 2017 

The Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is a Burgundy winery that specializes in producing grand cru wines.

Green pear, citrus oil, mandarin, new pastry, clear honey, and vanilla aromas characterize this 2017 vintage. This wine is full-bodied and textural, with a subtle honey finish.

Price:$11090.00 for a 2017 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru.

Leroy Domaine d’Auvenay Les Folatières (France), 2011 

Chardonnays, as typical as the great white Burgundy, are produced on this 4-hectare farm. Aromas of wet pavement and fresh white flowers pervade the stylish 2011 vintage. With a citrus-driven taste and finish, the palate is lively.

Price: $3774.00 for a 2011 Leroy Domaine d’Auvenay Les Folatières

2011 Leroy Domaine d’Auvenay Meursault Les Narvaux (France)

The Meursault Les Narvaux, produced by Domaine d’Auvenay, has aromas of fresh green apple, lemon, and acacia blossom. This medium-bodied Chardonnay is made entirely of Chardonnay grapes and has bright citrus berries, honey, and a slight viscosity on the finish.

Price:A 2011 Leroy Domaine d’Auvenay Meursault Les Narvaux will cost you $1880.00.

2013 Leroy Domaine d’Auvenay Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru (France)

Leroy Domaine d’Auvenay only manufactured a small amount of this vintage. With strong notes of almond and pear, this Chevalier-Montrachet has a yellow straw-like color. This Chardonnay-based white wine is nuanced, delicate, and has good length.

Price:A 2013 Leroy Domaine d’Auvenay Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru will cost you $8130.00.

2017 Etienne Sauzet Montrachet Grand Cru (France)

Etienne Sauzet, located in Puligny-Montrachet, produces some of Burgundy’s most coveted Chardonnay wines. When you take a drink of this complex, full-bodied wine, you will be greeted by the aromas of apple, peach, and grapefruit.

Price:$1050.00 for a 2017 Etienne Sauzet Montrachet Grand Cru

Chardonnay Wine and Food Pairings

Here are some pairing ideas for your next bottle of Chardonnay, whether it is oaked or unoaked:

Unoaked Chardonnay

A decent bottle of unoaked Chardonnay can be combined with the following foods because of its light body and crisp nature:

  • Spring fruits and vegetables include lemon, white asparagus, and other citrus fruits.
  • Sushi and shellfish are common choices.
  • New goat cheese and other cheeses

Oaked Chardonnay

An Oaked Chardonnay can be served with heavier dishes due to its full body and rich texture.

  • Meats that have been grilled.
  • Rotisserie chicken (lemon and herb flavor).
  • Cheeses are made from the milk of cows and sheep.
  • Thicker cream sauces.