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What you’ve always wanted to know about Chardonnay

Chardonnay at Domenica

Pic by @domenicawine 

#Q+AS – CHARDONNAY (that you are too embarrassed to ask)

Chardonnay thrives in almost every corner of the world – so if you are into wine you have most likely had a glass or two of Chardy. But being one of the most popular, versatile, and diverse grapes means it is sometimes a bit hard to get a handle on. Here are all the things you wanted to know about Chardonnay but were too embarrassed to ask.

IS CHARDONNAY A GRAPE OR A REGION?

Chardonnay is a white grape variety that produces white wines is grown everywhere from Argentina to Australia, France, South Africa, New Zealand, United States, Italy, and Germany. It is highly adaptable and takes on the characters of where it is grown and who makes it (terroir).

WHERE DOES CHARDONNAY COME FROM?

Chardonnay is native to Burgundy, in eastern France, considered to be its top region in the world. The styles differ between Burgundy’s regions and subregions (appellations), e.g. unoaked and crisp, lightly oaked, and heavily oaked and intense. Typical aromatics of Burgundy chardonnay include apple, hazelnut, toffee, and white blooms.

WHAT KIND OF WINE DOES CHARDONNAY MAKE?

Chardonnay is best known for making dry white wines that range across the flavour spectrum. The two main styles are the classic rich, buttery, oak-influenced style, and the one that is lean, citrusy, and fresh.

WHAT ARE THE BEST REGIONS FOR CHARDONNAY?

Chardonnay’s birthplace, Burgundy, makes the most renowned Chardonnay in the world, particularly in Chablis and Côte de Beaune. Within the Côte de Beaune, various Grands Crus, such as Corton, Charlemagne, and Montrachet, are some of the most highly regarded. In Australia, Orange, Adelaide Hills, Yarra Valley, Beechworth, Mornington Peninsula, Gippsland, Tasmania, Margaret River.

HOW MUCH DOES CHARDONNAY COST?

Chardonnay can range all over the spectrum, with inexpensive bottles (or even cans) for as little as $5 and Grands Cru Burgundies for thousands of dollars – e.g. Domaine Leflaive Batard-Montrachet reputedly sold for $5,923.

WHAT’S UP WITH COOL CLIMATE CHARDONNAY?

Cool climate regions mean the grapes take longer to become ripe during the growing season – giving more time for grape skins to develop complex phenolic characters before they are sugar ripe. So for early ripening varieties like chardonnay, the best spots are high altitude alpine (like Beechworth or Orange), frigid sea breezes (like Gippsland or Tasmania) or cold, extreme latitudes (like Burgundy or New Zealand).

WHAT’S UP WITH OAKY CHARDONNAY?

In the 1980s (and 1990s), the style pendulum swung towards big, butter ball chardonnays. Aging in oak imparts secondary characters of creamy, buttery, richness, partly from the toast of the wood and partly malolactic fermentation (converting malic to lactic acid). The pendulum has swung back towards cleaner fruit, crisper (malic) acidity, or at least much more integrated, moderate oak.

 

Ref Vine Pair and Wine Companion