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Wine Guide: What is Chardonnay Wine

There aren’t many sorts of wine out there that have the popularity chardonnay enjoys every day. This wine type is so well-known that its name is often used as a synonym for white wine.

Still, there is more to learn about chardonnay wines and their characteristics. 

What is chardonnay known for in the wine world? What types of chardonnay exist? These questions are important if you wish to call yourself a wine enthusiast.

So wait no more, and start learning. We’ve created a guide to teach you all the necessary information about chardonnay wines.

How Does Chardonnay Taste?

Chardonnay grows in so many different climates that it’s called the winemaker’s grape. It’s quite easy to work with in the cellar, too.

So, due to being so widespread and versatile, many different types of chardonnay exist.

The drinks vary from light and elegant to full-bodied white wine. Chardonnay’s taste isn’t consistent in separate bottles, either. 

Typically, however, it’s a dry, medium (to full-bodied), with some acidity and a standard alcohol level. 

The flavors may surprise you as well. In some types of chardonnay, you’ll find hints of apple and lemon, while others will remind you of papaya and pineapple. Some sorts show notes of vanilla due to being aged with oak.

What Is Chardonnay – Primary and Secondary Flavors in Chardonnay Wines

Primary

As we mentioned, chardonnay is grown worldwide, so the wine flavor varies from place to place. The flavor goes from lemon zest to baked apple and pineapple notes, and for two reasons.

The first reason this happens is the climate. The cooler the weather, the citrus notes will be more noticeable in the grapes and the wine.

The second reason is the harvest date. And the same notes are noticeable in the sorts harvested earlier in the year.

In places with warmer weather and a harvest later in the year, the grapes develop a different chardonnay taste. They create a flavor similar to riper, richer fruits.

These flavors are called primary because they come straight from the grape.

Secondary

Secondary flavors don’t come from the grape but from the winemaking process.

The first set of recognizable secondary flavors comes from the use of oak. With wines that use oak in the process, you’ll taste vanilla, coconut, and baking spices as a secondary wine flavor.

The type of wood, its origin, the shape, toast level, and the length of time spent in the wood all play a factor in the secondary flavor of the wine. They are all pieces that shouldn’t be overlooked when choosing a chardonnay with your next meal.

Diacetyl is the second flavor that can be derived from the winemaking process. 

This gives the wine that “buttery” character you may have heard experts mention. Without explaining how bacteria produce tastier wines, let’s just say that Diacetyl is a product of malolactic fermentation. It allows the green apple notes to soften and the buttery notes to take over the flavor.

What Does Chardonnay Pair With Well?

We keep saying how versatile chardonnay is and that so many different sorts are on the market, but what does chardonnay pair with well?

Crisp and pure, unoaked types of chardonnay go great with fresh cheeses. Give them a try with goat cheese or foods like oysters and delicate fish.

Try pairing firmer fish, chicken meat, or tenderloin with medium-bodied wines. These will also go well with aged cheeses, gouda, or gruyere.

When it comes to fat and rich, oaky-style wines, they can handle grilled meats with high-fat content. Always aim to match the weight of the wine with the food’s weight, and you’ll be on the right path to a well-balanced meal.

Why Is Chardonnay So Popular?

Nowadays, everybody knows what chardonnay is, some particular sorts, and the recognizable color. But from where does this popularity come?

This type of grape has a long history. It starts in Burgundy, France, where many expensive chardonnay sorts originate.

Also, the chardonnay grape is one of three base grapes for champagne. However, the rise in popularity comes with the arrival to America.

Once chardonnay made its way to California, nothing was stopping it from becoming the most popular grape in the states.

What’s the Difference Between Unoaked and Oaked Chardonnay?

You may have heard brands advertise their product as oaked or unoaked. However, if you’re not a wine enthusiast, you likely don’t know the meaning behind these labels.

When a winemaker wishes to produce a crisp chardonnay drink, they use stainless steel to ferment and store the wine. This allows the wine to keep its fresh character by limiting the influence of oxygen.

On the other hand, if a winemaker wishes to produce a wine with a fuller body and secondary flavors, they ferment the wine using oak. Or, they use steel for the fermentation process but implement oak in the aging part of the winemaking.

Aging in oak barrels allows the wine to develop secondary flavors of vanilla and spice and a creamy texture that unoaked chardonnay doesn’t possess.

Where Is the Best Chardonnay Produced?

Firstly, there is no best chardonnay out there. There are ones you prefer to drink over others, but no specific way to determine the best one for everybody.

However, there are ways to separate chardonnay wines.

The simplest one is the type of climate the grapes grow in and the area where the wine is produced.

Cool Climate Chardonnay

What is chardonnay like when it’s developed in a cooler climate? It’s a drink with more acidity and citrus flavors than the chardonnay sorts of the warm.

In the old world, you’ll find it in:

  • Champagne (France)
  • Burgundy (France)
  • Germany
  • Northern Italy
  • Austria

In the new world, you’ll find it in:

  • Ontario (Canada)
  • Anderson Valley (California)
  • Tasmania (Australia)
  • New Zealand
  • Chile

Warm Climate Chardonnay

Chardonnay grown in warmer climates tends to have less acidity with flavors that resemble peach, papaya, and pineapple.

These wines tend to have a higher percentage of alcohol. You’ll mostly find them in the new world, but there are places in the old world that have this type of wine.

In the old world, you’ll find it in:

  • Spain
  • Southern Italy

In the new world, you’ll find it in:

  • South Australia
  • California
  • South Africa

How to Serve Chardonnay?

Serving chardonnay should resemble most white wines. First of all, don’t forget to have it chilled.

If it’s warm outside, the flavors will be mudded, and the alcohol won’t taste as well. 

If you cool the drink too much, the aromas will be muted. 

Try to aim for a temperature between 50 and 55 degrees F. Two hours in the fridge will likely give you a result you’ll be happy with. 

Don’t worry if you can’t finish the bottle. Simply replace the cork and leave the wine back in the fridge. The flavors will remain fresh for a few more days. If you can’t get to it during that time, use the wine for cooking.

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