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On Chardonnay and How It Tastes

Chardonnay is the world’s most popular white varietal, and it’s easy to see the appeal. Ripe chardonnay can remind you of orchard fruits: pears, green or red apples, peaches, even pineapples. With oak aging it can acquire suggestions of butter, toast, hazelnuts, and especially vanilla. When aged it can gain a weighty richness and a luxurious honey texture. But it doesn’t end there. Cooler climates can yield chardonnays that have steely textures and more vibrant fruit flavors such as grapefruit, lemons or oranges. It’s that breadth of flavors, from crisp citrus examples to full-bodied exotic expressions, that makes chardonnay such a popular white varietal.

Where is chardonnay grown?

Chardonnay vines are supremely adaptable. They thrive in cool climates, hot climates, and everywhere between the two. Burgundy is where chardonnay first gained fame, and its Grand/Premier Cru chardonnays unquestionably remain the benchmark. But don't forget Champagne and Chablis, which yield some of chardonnay's finest cool climate, steely expressions. In 1976, the Napa Valley proved to the wine world that its chards deserve just as much attention as its Grand Cru cousins across the Atlantic. The Margaret River as well as other locations throughout Australia have yielded first-rate examples, as have select sites in Sonoma, Oregon, and New Zealand. And the best examples from the Macon, relatively speaking, offer serious value for the quality found in the bottle.

Some of chardonnay’s greatest examples?
What food or dishes should you pair with chardonnay?

The key to a successful chardonnay/food pairing is knowing what style of chardonnay you are planning to pour. Cool-climate, crisp, unoaked chardonnay such as a Chablis calls for raw oysters (a classic pairing), shellfish, or steamed fish. Riper, fruit-driven, unoaked or lightly oaked chards will shine with grilled chicken, pork, or pastas in a cream sauce. Ripe, oak aged chards should be paired with chicken or fish dishes prepared with a cream or butter sauce. Finally, barrel-fermented chardonnay or cellar aged chardonnay should be paired with some extravagant seafood dish like lobster or scallops or elegantly prepared, high-quality chicken roasted to perfection.