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As a grape, Chardonnay is beloved by an abundance of consumers-- and winemakers-- alike. From a wine producing standpoint, the Chardonnay grape is like a chameleon, that's to say, the grape can grow nearly anywhere, adapt to a variety of climates and soils, and produce a vast array of different styles of wine, based on the vinification choices of a particular winemaker. When it comes to true reflection of terroir, Chardonnay is an ideal candidate for a plethora of wine growing regions.
What is the flavor profile of Chardonnay?
The flavor profile of Chardonnay is extremely dependent on the soil type, climate, and geography of the particular region in which its grown. Chardonnay's final flavor profile is also greatly influenced by winemakers' vinification choices. In the past, many winemakers have chosen to age their Chardonnay in oak barrels, producing a warming, vanilla and coconut like flavor onto the wines. However, type of oak and aging regimen will also affect the outcome of the wine.
In terms of fruit forwardness, Chardonnay's final flavors are extremely reflective of cool climate versus warm climate. In cooler climate, Old World regions, Chardonnay tends to produce lean, high-acid wines, full of crisp green apple notes. In warmer, New World regions, Chardonnay wines tend to lean on the fuller-bodied, showing notes of juicy, tropical and stone fruits, marked by noticeable oak. Of course there are plenty of exceptions to this overarching summary-- as with most statements within the wine world!
Is Chardonnay dry or sweet?
Dry and sweet are two of the wine world's most misused terms! Technically speaking, a wine is dry if there is no residual sugar present-- meaning that 99% of the wines you are most likely drinking fall into that category. However, when a wine is ripe and juicy, the wine may seem to be sweet, though fruit-forward is technically the correct term here.
When it comes to Chardonnay, most bottles are vinified dry, though plenty result in juicy, fruit-forward wines. However, if left long enough on the vine, the sugars within Chardonnay grapes can certainly concentrate and become vinified into a dessert style wine, though the former is much, much more common.
What are the most renowned regions for Chardonnay?
Not sure where to start your Chardonnay shopping? Breaking the grape down by region is a great place to start. As stated above, Old World regions tend to produce more high-acid, leaner fruited examples, where New World expressions will lean on the fuller-bodied, oakier side. Here's a quick breakdown of notable areas to look for:
Burgundy: The OG region for growing Chardonnay, producing some of the most sought-after, delicious bottlings of the grape in the entire world. These wines tend to be racy and mouth-coating, with oak influence balanced by high acidity and an insanely cool climate.
Chablis: Although technically located in Burgundy, Chablis is worth calling out on its own, as the wines from this region tend to be insanely high-acid and bright, greatly influenced by the Kimmeridgian soils of the region.
Champagne: Yes, most Champagne is comprised of at least a portion of Chardonnay! Heard of Blanc de Blancs Champagne before? These bottles are comprised of 100% Chard.
Australia: Chardonnay dominates wine production in Australia, planted across the entire continent's range of sweltering hot to cool climate regions. Check out the regions surrounding Adelaide, as well as the bottles of Western Australia, specifically along the Margaret River.
California: More likely than not, your first glass of Chardonnay probably came from California. Rich, ripe, and generally pretty oak-influenced, these bottles are beloved by an array of drinkers, from wine sipping novices to bona fide experts.
What foods pair well with Chardonnay?
Because of Chardonnay's insanely diverse flavor profile, the grape can basically pair with any dish out there-- so long as an appropriate bottle is selected, of course. We recommend pairing lean, high-acid bottles (think Chablis) with oysters and shellfish, leaving those fuller-bodied, riper bottles for equally rich dishes, such as savory poultry, creamy pastas, and an array of fish dishes. Cheers!
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