Chardonnay, America's number one selling white wine varietal, continues to climb the production ladders to emerge as the most beloved of dry white wines in the U.S. The Chardonnay grape itself also contributes to the wine's popularity. Made from green-skinned grapes, Chardonnay is a relatively “low-maintenance” vine that adapts well to a variety of climates, resulting in fairly high yields worldwide.
These high yields translate into millions of bottles of Chardonnay wines. As a result, you can buy a good bottle of Chardonnay for under $15. Burgundy is Chardonnay's motherland, with white Burgundy (aka "Bourgogne Blanc") and Chablis the common bottle label clues for the grape when place names reign.
Chardonnay Flavor Profile
Chardonnay brings an impressive range of flavors from the expected buttered, oak influences to the fresh, fruit flavors of apple, pear, tropical, citrus and melon, leaving a lasting palate impression. Chardonnay has taken some heat, especially in New World growing regions, for being overly manipulated by oak. As a result, the pendulum is swinging and many places like California and Chile are backing off the oak and presenting bottles of Chardonnay that carry "unoaked" or "naked" tags on label lines.
Chardonnay Food Pairing
Chardonnay will pair well with poultry dishes, pork, seafood or recipes that have a heavy cream or butter base.
Also consider pairing the fresh fruit flavor profile of an unoaked Chardonnay with guacamole, garlic, salads, grilled shrimp or even curry dishes.
With a long and distinguished following, Chardonnay enjoys a very versatile image, with vintners offering a broad range of styles and structures. From rich, buttery Chardonnays that boast power and presence to the unoaked fruit-forward Chardonnay wines that allow the varietal character and expression to be in the spotlight, this white wine is capable of accommodating most palates and just as many food pairing combinations.
If you prefer a big buttery Chardonnay then look for ones that have been through malolactic fermentation, as they will yield the compound diacetyl, which makes up the dominant scent of fake butter used in microwave popcorn and imitation butter flavorings found in so many baked goods.
Chardonnay is an international grape variety that grows well in a number of regions. Keep an eye out for Chardonnay from California, Chile, Australia, Burgundy, and South Africa to get a glimpse of the range of styles and flavors across a wide array of price points.
Key Producers: Beringer, Bouchard Aine & Fils, Chalk Hill, Chateau Montelena, Clos du Bois, Clos Du Val, Concannon, Cono Sur, Faiveley, Ferrari-Carano, Grgich Hills, JJ Vincent, Kendall-Jackson, Kistler, La Crema, Landmark, Robert Oatley, Rodney Strong, Rombauer, Shafer Vineyards
Also Known As: Chablis, White Burgundy