Why Love Chardonnay?
If you’re not a Chanel-clad clubhouse member, you can still drink Chardonnay. Why? Because Chardonnay is the most diverse –and most planted– white wine grape in the world. It’s used for everything from rich Sonoma Chardonnay to the light-and-zesty ‘Blanc de Blancs’ Champagne. Get to know the wide variety of styles of Chardonnay and pinpoint the one that’s perfect for you.
Two Major Styles of Chardonnay
If you like the idea of butter in your glass, you’ll love the classic style of oak-aged Chardonnay wine. On the other hand, if words like “Pinot Grigio” make you feel woozy with love, then your perfect Chardonnay is the unoaked kind. How can a single grape offer such a variety of flavors? Well, in addition to the difference in winemaking (oak vs. no oak), ripeness has a lot to do with flavor.
A Note About Ripeness and Chardonnay Wine
A very ripe Chardonnay will have flavors more towards tropical fruits like pineapple, guava and mango. A barely ripe Chardonnay will have green apple and lemon flavors.
Chardonnay Wine Taste Profile
- FRUIT FLAVORS (berries, fruit, citrus)
- Lemon, Apple, Pear, Pineapple, Jackfruit, Passionfruit, Peach, Fig
- OTHER (herb, spice, flower, mineral, earth, other)
- Apple Blossom, Lemon Zest, Citrus Peel, Celery leaf, Beeswax, Lemon balm, Honeysuckle, Wet flint rocks, Saline Solution, Vanilla Bean, Almond, Jasmine
- OAK FLAVORS (flavors added with oak aging)
- Vanilla, Baked Tart, Butter, Pie Crust, Caramelized Sugar, Creme Brulee, Dill, Coconut, Praline
- CHARDONNAY SERVING TEMPERATURE
- Unoaked: 48 ºF (9 ºC)
Oaked: 54 ºF (12 ºC)
- Medium Low (oaked warm climate) – Medium High (unoaked cool climate)
- SIMILAR VARIETIES
- Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, Semillon, Fiano (Italy), Antão Vaz (Portugal)
Why do some Chardonnays taste creamy?
The smell of vanilla, butter, coconut and dill are all attributes of oak-aging. However, the texture that some Chardonnays have that can be described as Oily, Creamy, Smooth or Waxy are from a special kind of fermentation.
What is Malolactic Fermentation?
After the wine is fermented, an additional fermentation called Malolactic Fermentation (MLF) will give wine an oily texture. MLF turns tart malic acid (the acid in apples) to smooth lactic acid (the acid in milk). A malolactic fermentation involves a different kind of yeast that gobbles up malic acid and poops out lactic acid. If you want a rounder, more creamy-feeling wine, look for wines that have gone through MLF.
Chardonnay Food Pairing
Try semi-soft mild goat and cow’s milk cheeses such as Humboldt Fog .
Fish with Herbs
Herb Crusted Halibut with Minted Sweet Pea Purée. Find the full recipe at rickbakas.com
Chicken Breast, Turkey Breast, Pork Loin, Halibut, Trout, Cod, Sturgeon, Oily Flaky Fish, Atlantic Salmon, Lobster, Crab, Scallops, Shrimp, Clams, Oysters (unoaked)
Spices and Herbs
Tarragon, Parsley, Thyme, Lemon Zest, Marjoram, White Pepper, Shallots, Poultry Seasoning
Soft – Semi Soft Cow’s Milk Cheese and Goat Cheese.
Vegetables & Vegetarian Fare
Yellow Squash, Peas, Zucchini, Asparagus, Sun Chokes, Seitan, White Mushrooms, Truffles, Chanterelles, Almonds
Unoaked Chardonnay is far closer to the zesty style of Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc. Chardonnay wine tends to have less ‘green flavors’ than Sauvignon Blanc. Depending on how ripe the grapes were when picked, the flavor ranges from lemon and green apple (less ripe) to pineapple and figs (very ripe).
Unoaked Chardonnay Brands
- The Best of the Best Brocard, Albert Bichot, Dauvissat, Raveneau, Joseph Drouhin
- Middle of the Road Evening Land
- Great Values Four Vines ‘Naked’, INOX, Domaine de Bernier (Loire), Wishing Tree(Western Australia)
What Regions Make Unoaked Chardonnay
Most unoaked Chardonnay is from cooler climate wine regions.
- Sonoma Coast, California
- Western Australia
- Loire and Chablis, France
- Colchagua and Casablanca Valley, Chile
Oaked Chardonnays are rich, full-bodied and have additional flavors of vanilla, butter and even caramel from the oak. A cool climate, buttery Chardonnay will have more citrus flavors versus a warm climate Chardonnay, which will have more tropical fruit flavors.
Buttery Chardonnay Brands
- The Best of the Best Marcassin, Meursault(Charmes, Perrieres, Genevrieres), Montrachet, Far Niente, Cakebread, Ramey, Paul Hobbs, Domaine Serene, Frank Family,
- Middle of the Road Mâconnais, Gregory Graham, Neyers, Talbott, Au Bon Climat, Flora Springs
- Great Values KJ, Concha y Toro “Casillero del Diablo”, Errazuriz, Montevina, Alamos, Deloach, Tormaresca, Hob Nob
What Regions Make Oaked Chardonnay
Many oaked Chardonnays come from warmer climate wine regions.
- Southern & Eastern Australia
- Napa Valley, Paso Robles and Lake County in California
- Mendoza Argentina
- Burgundy, France (Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault and Mâconnais)
- Puglia, Italy