Chardonnay is undoubtedly one of the most famous white wines worldwide: whether as a still white wine, or in its various sparkling incarnations, Chardonnay is the number one selling white wine globally. With its Old-World roots planted firmly in the Burgundy region of France, where it is known as Chablis and occupies more than half of the available planting area, Chardonnay has long been planted all over the world, although reaches its fullest expression in chalkier soils. There is good reason for its proliferation: this is an easy-to-care-for, hardy vine that gives relatively high yields, translating into good profit margins for winemakers and keeping costs down for consumers to boot.
In the US, the best Chardonnay producers are located in California, as part of the Sonoma Coast appellation, with the Central Coast and Washington State wineries also producing some very strong contenders. In Italy, Chardonnay wines are produced the length of the country, from Alto-Adige in the North to Sicily in the South. As with all wines, climate plays an important role: Chardonnays from cooler climes tend to exhibit lighter notes of orchard fruits, whereas warm-climate Chardonnay is fuller and somehow more tropical.
To oak or not to oak? As a still white wine, Chardonnay somewhat fell out of favor toward the end of the last century, due to a glut of too-heavy, overly oaked Chardonnays swamping the market. Winemakers have since responded to this with a re-balancing, and today’s best oaked Chardonnays counter the toasty vanilla richness of oak by bringing out the grape’s innate citrussy acidity and underlying mineral tones. Unoaked Chardonnay, on the other hand, undergoes fermentation in stainless steel tanks, resulting in a crisper, cleaner and more fruit-driven profile. Of course, here at Tannico you can try an immense variety of Chardonnay wines, from the great Chablis wines of Burgundy and Champagnes produced either solely from Chardonnay or crafted from exquisite blends, to Italy’s prestigious Trento DOC and Franciacorta DOC, which also owe their fame to this multi-talented grape.
What does Chardonnay wine taste like? Unoaked Chardonnay wines display elegant minerality and a certain flintiness. Apple and pear are common tasting notes, along with yellow apple, starfruit and salty air. Try Les Côtilles from the Famille Roux winery, with its aromas of acacia and lemon grass, and a gentle mandarin flavor on the palate. Whilst Grand Cru Chablis wines may have seen a touch of oak, the emphasis remains on a clean flavor, with just a hint of smokiness at the end belying any contact with the wooden barrel. This is a far cry from the butteriness commonly associated with New World Chardonnays, which may also evoke crème brulée or toffee comparisons. Try the Francis Ford Coppola Winery’s Monterey County Chardonnay, with its velvety spiciness.
What food goes well with Chardonnay? All types of shellfish pair perfectly with this wine, whether raw or cooked. Try it alongside sushi or sashimi for a more modern twist. Chardonnay’s richness also makes it a good accompaniment for ‘meatier’ seafood dishes, such as crab or lobster. Oaked styles sit particularly well alongside richer seafood pasta dishes or starchier vegetables, whereas unoaked versions prefer slightly brighter and more delicate flavors.
Whether you’re new to Chardonnay or returning after having been put off in the past, we guarantee you’ll find something to tickle your taste buds among our selection!
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