Want to know all about Chardonnay wine and buy a few bottles of this popular white wine for your wine cellar?
The Chardonnay grape is much loved by winemakers as it is easy to grow, has a complex nature and is highly adaptable. Some have even dubbed it the “red wine of all the whites” because it undergoes a fermentation process similar to red wines!
But what really makes Chardonnay wine different from other white wines? Why is this wine so versatile and popular? Which are the Chardonnay wines worth storing in your wine cellar?
In this article, we will take you through everything you need to know about Chardonnay wine - from viticulture, vinification, how it should be served, and some amazing food pairings to go with it.
This Article Contains
(Click below and jump straight to the section)
- What Is Chardonnay?
- A Brief History Of Chardonnay
- 7 Interesting Facts About Chardonnay Wine
- Chardonnay Winemaking Techniques
- The Different Styles Of Chardonnay Fermentation
- How Do Chardonnay Wines Taste?
- How To Serve Chardonnay Wine
- Food Pairings With Chardonnay Wine
- Best Chardonnay Wines You Can Buy In 2020
- Buy The Best Chardonnay Wines Through Vinovest
What Is Chardonnay?
Chardonnay is the green-skinned grape that is used in the production white wines, Champagne and sparkling wines (Blanc de Blancs).
While other white wines take their names from the region the grape is grown in, Chardonnay wines take their name from the grape used to produce it.
Being highly adaptable, the Chardonnay grape gets its flavor from the terroir and the oak used during the viticulture and vinification process. This allows winemakers to experiment and leave their own unique style on every bottle of Chardonnay wine they produce.
A Brief History Of Chardonnay
The Chardonnay grape originated in the wine region of Burgundy, Eastern France.
It’s popularity peaked in the 1980s. Today Chardonnay is grown and produced across the world, from Napa Valley to New Zealand.
Chardonnay wines go by different names in different parts of the world. For example: Chablis, Pouilly-Fuissé, Montrachet and Meursault are Chardonnay wines produced in certain region.
To discover more about the wine regions of France and some of the best wines made there, check out these articles:
Recent research done at the University of California, Davis suggests that Chardonnay must have originated from a pairing of Pinot noir, Pinot Blanc and Gouais Blanc grape varieties.
How did this crossbreeding happen?
This may have happened centuries ago when the Romans planted Gouais Blanc grapes on French soil where Pinot Noir was planted too.
Here are many more interesting facts about Chardonnay.
7 Interesting Facts About Chardonnay Wine
- Chardonnay can grow almost everywhere
With 210 000 hectares planted worldwide, the versatile Chardonnay thrives in both the Old World and the New World wine producing regions as well.
(What is Old World and New World?
Old World refers to the traditional European wine producing regions. New World refers to the Americas and other wine regions. Also, the Old World uses more traditional winemaking techniques including methods to ferment their wine, and the New World has been quicker to try out new technologies.)
- Chardonnay’s production numbers surpass Pinot Noir in Burgundy
When we think of a good Burgundy wine, we are most likely going to think of red Pinot noir wines. Is it because the word Burgundy makes us think of the wine shade of red?
But when it comes to the numbers, Chardonnay accounts for 60% of Burgundy’s wine production.
- Chardonnay is a best seller in the US
Chardonnay is the best-selling white wine in America, with close to 900,000 bottles consumed per year.
- Blanc De Blancs Champagne are 100% Chardonnay
Most popular champagnes are a blend of Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Menunier. Blanc de Blancs Champagne are typically made up entirely of white wine grapes, usually Chardonnay.
- A Queen’s favorite!
Around 800 AD, Luitgard, the wife of Franconian Emperor Charlemagne, hated the way red wine stained her husband's beard. She then ordered that the white grapes (Chardonnay) be planted in their own vineyard. This area, Corton-Charlemagne, is now known for some of the best white Burgundies.
- An Award-winning Chardonnay
The 1969 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay vintage was included amongst the strong contenders during the famous “Judgement of Paris” tasting in 1976. This put California on the international map for great white wine.
- Known as the ‘red wine’ of whites
Chardonnay is known as the red wine of the whites because of two unique stages in its vinification: barrel fermentation and malolactic acid fermentation. (Read more about this in the Chardonnay Winemaking Techniques section below.)
Chardonnay: Viticulture and Winemaking Techniques
Let’s look at how this popular wine is made.
The viticulture of Chardonnay Grapes
Chardonnay grapes are malleable enough to take on the influences of the terroir and the winemaking processes - making it even more exciting to grow.
Because of its strong vine and substantial leaf cover, Chardonnay grapes clusters struggle to get the energy and nutrients they need to grow successfully.
Canopy management and aggressive pruning are common ways in which vineyard managers counteract this challenge. They densely plant the Chardonnay grape vines to make them compete for energy.
When it comes to harvesting, time is a crucial factor. If you take too long to harvest the grapes, they will start to rapidly lose their acidity once it ripens.
Chardonnay is an early budding vine, which makes it perfect for growing in regions with short growing seasons. For instance, in Burgundy, it can be harvested before the autumn rain comes and the threat of rot is avoided.
How is Chardonnay different from Pinot Blanc?
There are many similarities when it comes to Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. Both of them can produce a smooth, semi-dry white wine, and their grapes are almost identical.
So what is it that makes them so different?
Here are the the subtle differences between Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc :
- Grape color: Chardonnay grapes take on a more golden-green color when they ripen. On the other hand, pinot blanc grapes remain a grassy green shade.
- On the vine: Chardonnay grape clusters are cylindrical to conical in shape. Pinot blanc grapes grow in small bunches surrounded by dark-green leaves.
- Influence of Oak: One of the methods that can be used to mature Chardonnay includes adding in an oak influence. Pinot blanc has the potential for this, but it is not a popular option.
- Sparkling wine vs Champagne: Pinot blanc has a sweet, crisp and light profile, making it a favorable choice for sparkling and dessert wines. The Chardonnay grape is the number one choice for producing Champagne.
- Ageing: Chardonnay wine has great longevity. Most Chardonnays typically age well for 5-7 years (but some Grand Cru white Burgundies like Montrachet can age for more than a decade.)
A thing to remember is an older Chardonnay will not taste the same as their younger self. The fresh fruit flavors will fade, and more spicy and nut flavors will come to the foreground.
Chardonnay winemaking techniques
Chardonnay is diverse in nature, and allows the winemaker to mix, match and experiment with different styles of wine making. But it is the degree of oak used and the malolactic fermentation that affects the final result.
The “buttery-ness” of Chardonnay comes when the malolactic fermentation process converts the malic acid into a softer lactic acid. Interestingly, Chardonnay and Viognier are the few white wines that undergo malolactic fermentation just like all red wines. During or after fermentation, oak can be introduced to give it a sweeter taste profile.
The fermentation temperature and the time spent by the wine aging on the lees are the other factors that influence its taste.
For instance, colder fermentation produces more fruity flavors like pineapple. Some winemakers even amplify the contact with the lees while “stirring up” the wine while it is aging (Bâttonage).
Now that we are well introduced to Chardonnay grapes and the wine it produces, let’s take a look at how the different styles bring out the different profiles.
What is the difference between Oaked Chardonnay and Unoaked Chardonnay?
Chardonnay wine can be split into two different styles - Oaked, and Unoaked. One is aged using an oak barrel and the other, in a stainless steel barrel.
When the Chardonnay is aged in an Oak Barrel, the wine is exposed to more oxygen. This also influences the taste of Chardonnay wine. (We’ll tell you about that in a while.)
How Do Chardonnay Wines Taste?
Since the Chardonnay grape is influenced by the terroir and the winemaking techniques used, it’s difficult to pinpoint flavor characteristics.
To fully understand the different tastes and flavors we need to take the fermentation process and climates into consideration.
Different climates and how they affect the taste of Chardonnay Wines
Since Chardonnay is successfully cultivated across the world, it exposes the grape to different climates, influencing its flavor.
A. Cooler Climate:
Growing Chardonnay in a cool climate produces a lighter, more elegant white wine. It typically has a citrus flavor and a higher level of acidity. Its fruity tastes will remind you of green apples, pears, and plums.
Cooler Regions: Burgundy, Champagne, Germany, Austria, Northern Italy, Ontario, Sonoma Coast, Anderson Valley, Willamette Valley, Tasmania, Argentina, Mornington Peninsula, New Zealand, Sonoma County, Chile and Leyda Valley.
B. Warmer Climate:
When Chardonnay is grown in a warm climate, the wine will still have fruit forward flavors. You’ll also be greeted with friendly tropical fruit flavors like kiwi and mango.
Warmer regions: Spain, Southern Italy, California (Napa County), South Australia, and South Africa.
How does the fermentation process influence the flavors of Chardonnay?
We know that the fermentation process affects the taste of Chardonnay. But, what flavors can you expect from oaked and unoaked Chardonnay?
Oaked Chardonnay: The more complex style of the two, oaked Chardonnay is considered to be a sweeter white wine. Oaked Chardonnay has a full body, rich texture and aromas of vanilla and butterscotch. It pleases your senses with a creamy buttery taste, with reminders of hazelnut, honey and caramel.
Unoaked Chardonnay: If you are looking for a dry, crisp and refreshing white wine, then unoaked Chardonnay is your best option. Unoaked Chardonnay is fermented using stainless steel barrels, which gives it a crisper taste.
Unlike oaked Chardonnay, unoaked or “naked” Chardonnay has a lighter body and brighter color. You will be mesmerized with the bouquet of green apples, limes and peaches associated with different unoaked Chardonnays.
How To Serve Chardonnay Wine
The perfect temperature for Chardonnay
To bring out the aroma and flavor of your Chardonnay wine, chill your Chardonnay for at least an hour before serving:
- Unoaked Chardonnay: chill at 50°F (10°C)
- Oaked Chardonnay: chill at 55°F (12.7°C)
If you have some Chardonnay left, keep it corked and in the fridge for 2-4 days after opening.
Glasses you should use to serve Chardonnay
Usually when people drink a glass of Chardonnay, they use a normal white wine glass. But, all it does is accentuate the oak.
To truly enjoy a glass of Chardonnay, you need to bring out all the flavors of the wine.
So, use a wine glass that has:
- A larger bowl that will allow the heavier layers and aromas to come out, and
- A wide rim to guide the wine from one side of your palate to the other.
Wondering what foods you should pair Chardonnay wine with?
Food Pairings With Chardonnay Wine
Here are some pairing suggestions for your next bottle of Oaked or Unoaked Chardonnay:
Because of its light body and crisp nature, a good bottle of unoaked Chardonnay can be paired with:
- Lemon, white asparagus and other spring fruits and vegetables
- Sushi and shellfish
- Goat cheese and other fresh cheeses
Because of the full body and rich texture of an Oaked Chardonnay, you can pair it with heavier dishes like
- Grilled meats
- Roast chicken (lemon and herb flavor)
- Creamy cow and sheep milk cheeses
- Heavier cream sauces
Are you ready to put the versatility of Chardonnay to the test?
To help you choose your next bottle of Chardonnay, we have a list of the best Chardonnays of 2020.
Best Chardonnay Wines You Can Buy In 2020
- 2005 Marcassin "Marcassin Vineyard" Sonoma Coast (US)
Owned by the famous winemaker Helen Turley and viticulturist John Wetlaufer, the Marcassin Vineyards has become one of the leading Sonoma Coast wine labels.
With a gold/green color, this rich and full bodied Chardonnay has aromas of fresh cut white flowers, with notes of tangerines, brioche and honeysuckle.
2005 Marcassin "Marcassin Vineyard" Sonoma Coast: $270.00
- 2013 No. 1 Family Estate Cuvee Adele (New Zealand)
From the Pioneers of Marlborough Methode Traditionelle wines, you can find this masterpiece that Daniel le Brun created as a tribute to his wife Adèle.
This tropical and balanced sparkling wine is made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape varietals. You’ll love it’s fresh citrus and honey aromas and notes of peach, grapefruit and tropical fruit.
Price of a 2013 No. 1 Family Estate Cuvee Adele: $150.00
- 2013 Lucien Le Moine Montrachet Grand Cru (France)
Grown in southern Côte de Beaune, a wine region well-known for the world’s best Chardonnay, this elegant white wine is 100% Chardonnay.
This complex Chardonnay will mesmerize you with aromas of lime cordial and orange blossom. Hints of citrus fruit, lime, almonds and white chocolate will tantalize your palate.
Price of a 2013 Lucien Le Moine Montrachet Grand Cru: $990.00
- 2017 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru (France)
The Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is a Burgundy wine estate that produces exclusive grand cru wines.
This 2017 vintage has aromas of green pear, citrus oil, mandarin, fresh pastry, clear honey and vanilla. This full-bodied and textural wine has an elegant honey finish.
Price of a 2017 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru: $11 090.00
- 2011 Leroy Domaine d'Auvenay Les Folatières (France)
This 4-hectare estate produces Chardonnays as popular as the great white Burgundy. The elegant 2011 vintage has aromas of fresh white flowers and wet pavement. The palate is vibrant with a citrus-driven taste and finish.
Price of a 2011 Leroy Domaine d'Auvenay Les Folatières: $3774.00
- 2011 Leroy Domaine d'Auvenay Meursault Les Narvaux (France)
Made in Domaine d’Auvenay, the Meursault Les Narvaux offers fresh green apple, lemon and acacia blossom aromas. This medium-bodied 100% Chardonnay has vibrant notes of citrus fruits, honey and a slight viscosity on the finish.
Price of a 2011 Leroy Domaine d'Auvenay Meursault Les Narvaux: $1880.00
- 2013 Leroy Domaine d'Auvenay Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru (France)
This vintage was only produced in limited quantities by Leroy Domaine d’Auvenay.
This Chevalier-Montrachet has a yellow straw-like color, with powerful notes of almond and pear. This white wine is 100% Chardonnay and is complex, delicate with a good length.
Price of a 2013 Leroy Domaine d'Auvenay Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru: $8130.00
- 2017 Etienne Sauzet Montrachet Grand Cru (France)
Etienne Sauzet, based in Puligny-Montrachet, makes some of the most sought-after Chardonnay wines in Burgundy. You’ll be greeted by aromas of apple, pear and grapefruit when you take a sip of this complex, full-bodied wine.
Price of a 2017 Etienne Sauzet Montrachet Grand Cru: $1050.00
Now that you know all about Chardonnay wines, which regions and brands to look for, let’s move on to the best way to buy the best Chardonnays!
Choosing a great bottle of Chardonnay can sometimes feel like picking a movie on Netflix. There are just so many options and variables to take into consideration.
Fortunately, you can fall back on a trusted wine investment company like Vinovest to do the buying and storing for you! Read on.
Buy The Best Chardonnay And Other Wines Through Vinovest
Vinovest has a world-class wine expert team that will help you buy the best Chardonnay wine that best suits your palate or occasion. What’s more? You can also have your wines stored perfectly for years, and even sell them when the time is right!
How it works
All you need to do is to follow these four steps:
- Sign up (with your name, email ID, and password) on the Vinovest website.
- Complete the brief questionnaire on your investment preferences and risk appetite.
- Add a minimum of $1000 to your account.
- Track your fine wine portfolio online and watch it grow!
Benefits of buying wines through Vinovest
Easy buying and selling
With just a click or two, you can buy and sell wine from anywhere in the world. With help from Vinovest’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) based online platform, you can easily add Chardonnay wines from California to New Zealand to your portfolio.
Vinovest takes the guesswork out of prices. Buy the best wines at the best wholesale prices as the wines are sourced directly from global wine exchanges, winemakers and merchants.
Provenance and authenticity
Worried about counterfeit bottles? Vinovest authenticates every single bottle and checks its provenance, before you choose to spend any money.
With a professional team of Sommeliers and data scientists, your portfolio will be meticulously curated.
Worried about your Chardonnay getting spoilt or lost while storing it for a few years? Vinovest keeps all your wine safe in bonded warehouses under optimal storage conditions.
Under the watchful eyes of security cameras you can rest assured your wines are being kept safe by Vinovest. Power back ups for security and storage conditions are included.
Vinovest also has a comprehensive insurance policy to protect your wine cellar.
Every bottle of Chardonnay wine you spend money on, is yours.
Vinovest ensures your wines are safely packed and shipped to your home (if you want to open a bottle) or to your buyer (if you choose to sell it.)
The Chardonnay wine universe is an exciting one with so many winemakers, and a range of flavors and complexities.
Instead of making the Chardonnay wine buying decisions yourself, you could do it hassle-free by entrusting it with a team like Vinovest.
Time to sign up for your online wine investment portfolio yet?