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Chardonnay is not an aromatic grape, like Sauvignon Blanc is. Most of the flavours you will smell & taste will not come from the grape itself, but from the winemaking process. It’s a grape that truly reflects the terroir where its made.
Burgundy is the region in France where Chardonnay originates from. Chablis produces dry, citrus & mineral versions, as it has a cool climate. Further south in the Cote D’Or (Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Le Montrachet) you will find more complex Chardonnays with stone fruits like white peach. Even further south in the Maconnais, the ones from the Macon are fresh, light & fruity, while Pouilly-Fuisse adds tropical fruit.
The Chardonnay grape can be found all over the world, because it loves & can adapt to a wide climate, from cool to hot. In Australia (Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills, Margaret River) are creating pronounced fruit & oaky ones, but lighter versions can be found here too. New-Zealand is producing small quantities, with Marlborough as largest region producing crispy, tropical, mineral & oaky Chardonnay.
The USA is a great region for Chardonnays too. California, with sub-regions Sonoma, Russian River & Carneros, benefiting from cool sea breezes & early morning fog, resulting in full stone fruit flavours with a touch of oak. Further South, Chile also benefits from the cool sea breezes & early morning fog, creating tropical fruit, oak with a good level of acidity. Argentina’s climate (Mendoza) is unique in a way, that it has hot days with cool nights. In a way, the same as cool sea breezes/early morning fogs, it has expressive fruit with spice.
Furthermore, South-Africa (Walker Bay) is producing fine different styles of Chardonnays, South-Italy & also back in France, the Languedoc-Roussillon Chardonnays can be found.
As Chardonnay adapts to the climates its produced in, the wine can have a wide variety of flavours. In general, Cool climates creates flavours of green fruit, citrus & vegetal. Moderate will create stone fruit, citrus & melon. Hot climate will create tropical fruit.
Almost all Chardonnays made, benefit from malolactic fermentation. The lees (dead yeast cells left over from the fermentation) will be stirred though the base wine, adding creaminess. Some Chardonnays will get oak treatment too, adding vanilla, toast & coconut flavours.
Due to the popularity & adaptability of Chardonnay, demand around the world is high. Hence, you will find cheaper Chardonnay versions too. These are often a blend of different Chardonnays from a certain country or region, with the regional name stated on the label. Example are South-Eastern Australia, California or Vin de France. To recreate the oaky taste, the wine makers use oak chips or staves to keep costs down.
Chardonnay is a delicious grape & most of the wines are single-variety. In some countries though, its blended with other grapes to create different unique wines. Semillon can be added in Australia, the aromatic Colombard & Chenin Blanc can be added in Chile & USA, with Viognier in France, adding fruity & floral notes.
Food wise, Chardonnay is a good guide with white meat. Chicken, Duck, (white) fish with herbs, but also soft cheeses. Ever thought about asparagus, crustaceans or Molluscs? What about truffles? As long as the wines aren’t heavily oaked.
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