Whether you love it, claim to hate it, or just don’t know that much about it, there’s no denying that Chardonnay is a staple in the world of white wine production. The grape is produced in nearly every viticultural region worldwide, creating still and sparkling bottles across the flavor spectrum. From entry-level bottles to prestigious labels, here’s everything you need to know about this green-skinned go-to.
Although the origins of Chardonnay have long been debated, experts agree that the grape was born in Burgundy. It’s often dubbed a ‘chameleon’ variety, as it’s extremely influenced by terroir. Because of this, Chardonnay is a rather neutral base and ends up with wines that reflect a unique sense of place.
Where It’s Grown
Short answer: all over. The most prominent Chardonnay-growing regions include Burgundy, Champagne, California, Australia, and New Zealand—though expressions from Washington, New York, South Africa and Argentina’s Uco Valley are also up there.
What It Tastes Like
A good starting point is to break down the tasting spectrum by climate. Chardonnay grown in cooler climates tends to create medium-bodied wines with flavors of green apple and tart pear, marked by noticeable acidity. Chardonnay cultivated in warmer climates usually mean fuller-bodied wines with notes of tropical fruit, melon and citrus.
Vinification methods also play a huge role in the way that a final bottle of Chardonnay tastes. Wines that undergo malolactic fermentation will usually have a ‘buttery’ component. Chardonnay aged in steel will usually maintain higher acidity and fresher flavor profile than those aged in oak, which usually present a toastier palate marked by notes of vanilla, coconut and baking spices. It’s also a major player in sparkling wine production worldwide, particularly in Champagne. If you happen to come across a ‘Chardonnay hater,’ ask them if they’d ever turn down a glass of top-quality bubbly.
The Gift That Keeps On Giving
Chardonnay is quite vigorous, meaning that vines tend to produce a surplus of fruit. To combat this, winemakers take on a serious canopy management tactics, as well as plant densely, to create competition amongst vines. It’s crucial that winemakers know the optimal harvest time for their Chardonnay, as the fruit can quickly lose its natural acidity and become susceptible to overripeness. Despite its need for attention, Chardonnay is certainly worth the labor.