Chardonnay Uncorked: A Simple Guide to the World of Wine
Chardonnay is one of the world’s most popular white grape varieties, a myth, a synthesis of opulence and elegance.
But Chardonnay has conquered the world not only for its prestige, but also for the ease with which it produces good harvests and because it is a cool vine that many want to cultivate for a commercial advantage.
With Chardonnay, you can practically produce any type of white wine—even the opposite. It is a fresh, fragrant wine, rich in minerals and earthy hints, and well structured. Still, you can refine it in new barrels to bring out the ripe, honeyed, and buttery notes, or harvest it greener if you want to push on the acidity and produce great sparkling wines. Want some examples?
Chardonnay production areas
Let’s start with the king of sparkling wines, Champagne, where traditional Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier are the main protagonists. To clarify, Blanc de Blancs Champagne is made solely from Chardonnay grapes.
Then we have the sumptuous wines of Burgundy, especially the Côte de Beaune, which focus on ripe fruit, great flavor, intoxicating and buttery aromas, and refinement in wood that helps the wine become of incredible complexity. These fantastic and venerable Chardonnays reach full maturity, usually after 10 years, so we are not talking about trivial wines.
The areas to visit in France to taste the best Chardonnays are Corton-Charlemagne, Montrachet, and Meursault if you like more structured and spicy wines. If you prefer a more breezy but also pure style, without the slightest trace of smokiness, then the Chablis, Côte Chalonnaise, and Loire areas are worth a couple (or dozens) of visits.
Chardonnay gets all of its citrus and tropical flavors and a freshness that can’t be found anywhere else in places like Auckland, New Zealand, or the Hunter and Clare Valleys.
As usual for white wines, Italy’s favorite areas are Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige. But even Tuscany is making better Chardonnay, especially in Bolgheri, where “heavy” barrique aging gives the wines structure.
Chardonnay is grown in many different parts of the United States, and each one makes a different style of wine. This article will look at the different wine regions and subregions in the US, as well as the styles of Chardonnay made in each.
The main places in the United States that make Chardonnay are California, New York, and Washington State. The climate and soils of each of these areas have a big impact on the taste and style of the Chardonnay made there.
California is the leading wine-producing state in the United States, and its climate is known for being warm and sunny. There are numerous wine regions in the state, including Napa Valley, Sonoma, and Monterey. Chardonnay is grown a lot in these areas, and the wines are known for having flavors of rich butter and tropical fruits.
In short, few grape varieties leave such a wide choice of interpretation to the winemakers. In practice, it has everything. It is the complete package. On the other hand, this perfection has led to a huge increase in the number of Chardonnays around the world, which has led to flattening, homologation, and simple wines.
The origins of the Chardonnay grape are still obscure. The legend has it that it comes from ancient Persia, but what we have in concrete are the first documents of the grape harvests in Burgundy, the Chardonnay’s truly spiritual and territorial homeland.
It seems to have come from the old Pinot Noir, and its clear mineral and earthy scents, which are similar to those of Pinot Noir, support this idea.
Organoleptic characteristics of the Chardonnay
How can we recognize this excellent white wine?
The bouquet is always strong, with hints of lemon, lime, and orange; honey; peach; many tropical fruits (banana, mint, white flowers); rocks and mushrooms in the style of Pinot Noir; and a whole set of smoky, buttery, and vanilla smells if it has been aged in barrels, which should change over time into crazy tertiary smells.
When you open a bottle of Chardonnay that has been aged in barrels for a long time, you will be disappointed. It takes time, so be careful if you have to make a purchase. We give you an illustrious example, the Gaia & Rey Langhe DOC. Now, you can find the 2014 vintage, but it still takes many years to achieve a good balance between the hard and soft parts and the “taste of wood.”
What does Chardonnay wine taste like?
It isn’t easy to provide you with a guide. There are Chardonnays that, if compared, seem day and night, but what we know for sure is that Chardonnay is consistently structured and acidic, opulent, and sapid. It could be young, rocky, fresh, and tropical with a pale yellow color, or it could be an older wine that has been aged in wood and has flavors of butter, spices, and lemon curd.
You just have to do some tasting, maybe buy different bottles and make comparisons between wood-aged vs. unoaked wines, try different climates, and discover thousands of faces and flavors. But, in all of this talk about sparkling Chardonnay, the most elegant form, Champagne, is left out. We have not forgotten it, but we have dedicated a whole page to it. Just click here, and another imaginative wine tour will begin.
Chardonnay food pairings
We are talking about a combative and structured wine, so do not combine it only with fish but also with Thai food, shellfish soups, Indian dishes with vegetables, fried foods, and white meats. Recommended dishes: Mantuan-style pumpkin tortelli; rice noodles with prawns and vegetables; sweet and sour pork; parmigiana ravioli; spaghetti with clams; chicken tikka masala; Chicken Cacciatore, Vitello Tonnato; truffle risotto; pasta alla carbonara.