Chardonnay – A Proper Guide to This Popular Grape

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Oh, we all love a glass of Chardonnay. Whether it is an eye-watering dry style from northern Burgundy or a rounded, tropical take from California, this grape has the versatility to please many a palate. This does not mean it has no backbone. Far from it. Chardonnay is a survivor, appearing with regularity in any given 10 top grapes of the world list and planted all over the globe.

An early budder, it does not do well in spring frosts but can produce green fruit-forward wines with prominent citrus notes in cool climes. In moderate regions, it expresses with tones of fleshy fruit such as peach and melon while it takes on a tropical character in areas that are warm to hot.

Indeed, this varietal is often compared to a blank canvas, developing unique flavors in different climates and a willing recipient of a range of treatments in the winery that tease out distinct primary, secondary, and tertiary hints.

Below are three top regions for Chardonnay.

Regions for Chardonnay

Burgundy

It is perhaps ironic that, owing to French appellation rules, the most famous Chardonnay is not known by its varietal name but by where it is produced: Chablis in Burgundy, north-central France. This style of Chardonnay is lean and dry as a bone, typically displaying white florals, citrus, pear, a touch of salinity, and epic minerality. This unoaked style has inspired winemakers around the globe who admire its clean, high acidity.

Further south in Burgundy, wines from the Côte d’Or show stone fruit and a touch of cream while further on, Mâconnais wines are ripe, rounded, and brushed with toasty oak. Malolactic fermentation and lees aging add texture, complexity, and a velvety mouthfeel in these expressions known as “White Burgundy”.

California

In the past, there was a trend towards oaky style Chardonnay in California, but this trend has given way to a more subdued, chic approach.

Two of the leading areas for premium Chardonnay production are Los Carneros AVA (American Viticultural Area) and Russian River Valle AVA. The former is at the southern tip of Napa Valley and is cool enough to make premium Chardonnay. The latter is situated in Sonoma County where a cool, foggy environment means a quality, elegant expression of his grape.

Modern styles display a tad of oak, good acidity, and restrained notes of peach, banana, butter, and hazelnut.

Chile

Chardonnay is one of the dominant international varietals in this South American country. Initially following a modern ripe fruit, oaky style, Chardonnay wines are becoming more diverse in their expression

In the LimarĂ­ Valley in the north, this popular varietal is made in an elegant, restrained, and structured style while in the Aconcagua and Casablanca Valleys (both cool regions), you find Chardonnay that has a linear personality with notes of tropical and orchard fruit, brilliant acidity, and striking minerality.

Chardonnay is made just about everywhere wine is produced and seamlessly takes on a different character depending on the soils, climate, and winemaking trends.

We love this grape for its supple nature. Tell us about your favorite Chardonnays in the comments section below.

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