Chardonnay grape itself is very neutral, with many of the
flavors commonly associated with the grape being derived
from such influences as terroir and oak.
It is vinified in many different styles, from the rich,
buttery Meursaults to New World wines with tropical fruit
is an important component of many sparkling wines around
the world, including Champagne. A peak in popularity in
the late 1980s gave way to a backlash among those wine drinkers
who saw the grape as a leading negative component of the
globalization of wine. Nonetheless, it remains one of the
most widely-planted grape varieties, with over 400,000 acres
(175,000 hectares) worldwide, second only to Airen among
white wine grapes and planted in more wine regions than
any other grape including Cabernet
much of its history, a connection was assumed between Chardonnay
and Pinot noir or Pinot
blanc. In addition to being found in the same region
of France for centuries, ampelographers noted that the leaves
of each plant have near-identical shape and structure. Pierre
Galet disagreed with this assessment, believing that Chardonnay
was not related to any other major grape variety. Viticulturalists
Maynard Amerine & Harold Olmo proposed a descendency
from a wild Vitis vinifera vine that was a step removed
from white Muscat. Chardonnay's
true origins were further obscured by vineyard owners in
Lebanon and Syria, who claimed that the grape's ancestry
could be traced to the Middle East, from where it was introduced
to Europe by returning Crusaders, though there is little
external evidence to support that theory.
Another theory stated that it originated from an ancient
indigenous vine found in Cyprus.
DNA fingerprinting research at University of California,
Davis, now suggests that Chardonnay is the result of a cross
between the Pinot and Gouais Blanc (Heunisch) grape varieties.
It is believed that the Romans brought Gouais Blanc from
the Balkans, and it was widely cultivated by peasants in
Eastern France. The Pinot of the French aristocracy grew
in close proximity to the Gouais Blanc, giving both grapes
ample opportunity to interbreed. Since the two parents were
genetically distant, many of the crosses showed hybrid vigour
and were selected for further propagation. These "successful"
crosses included Chardonnay and siblings such as Aligot,
Aubin Vert, Auxerrois, Bachet noir, Beaunoir, Franc Noir
de la-Haute-Saene, Gamay Blanc Gloriod, Gamay noir, Melon,
Roublot, Sacy and Dameron.
crossing and mutations
2006, 34 clonal varieties of Chardonnay could be found in
vineyards throughout France, most of which were developed
at the University of Burgundy in Dijon. The so-called "Dijon
clones" are bred for their adaptive attributes, with vineyard
owners planting the clonal variety best suited to their
terroir and which will produce the type of characteristics
that they are seeking in the wine. Examples include the
lower-yielding clones Dijon-76, 95 & 96
that produce more flavor-concentrated clusters. Dijon-77
& 809 produce more aromatic wines with a "grapey"
perfume, while Dijon-75, 78, 121, 124, 125 &
277 are more vigorous and higher yielding clones.
New World varieties include the Mendoza clone, which
produced some of the early Californian Chardonnays. The
Mendoza clone is prone to developed millerandage,
also known as "hens and chicks", where the berries develop
unevenly. In places
such as Oregon, the use of newer Dijon clones has had some
success in those regions of the Willamette Valley with climates
similar to that of Burgundy.
has served as parent to several French-American hybrid grapes,
as well as crossings with other Vitis vinifera varieties.
Examples include the hybrid Chardonel which was a Chardonnay
and Seyval blanc cross produced in 1953 at the New York
State Agricultural Experiment Station. Mutations of the
Chardonnay grape include the rare pink-berried "Chardonnay
Rose"; also "Chardonnay Blanc Musque , which produces an
intensely aromatic wine. Chardonnay
Blanc MusquĂ© is most mostly found around the MĂ˘connais
village of ClessĂ© and sometimes confused with the Dijon-166
clone planted in South Africa, which yields Muscat-like
has a wide-ranging reputation for relative ease of cultivation
and ability to adapt to different conditions. The grape
is very "malleable", in that it reflects and takes on the
impression of its terroir and winemaker. It is a
highly vigorous vine, with extensive leaf cover which can
inhibit the energy and nutrient uptake of its grape clusters.
Vineyard managers counteract this with aggressive pruning
and canopy management. When Chardonnay vines are planted
densely, they are forced to compete for resources and funnel
energy into their grape clusters. In certain conditions
the vines can be very high-yielding, but the wine produced
from such vines will suffer a drop in quality if yields
go much beyond 4.5 tons per acre (80 hl/ha). Producers of
premium Chardonnay limit yields to less than half this amount. Sparkling
wine producers tend not to focus as much on limiting yields,
since concentrated flavors are not as important as the wine's
time is crucial to winemaking, with the grape rapidly losing
acidity as soon as it ripens. Some viticultural hazards
include the risk of damage from springtime frost, as Chardonnay
is an early-budding vine usually a week after Pinot noir.
To combat the threat of frost, a method developed in Burgundy
involves aggressive pruning just prior to flowering. This
"shocks" the vine and delays flowering for up to two weeks,
which is often long enough for warmer weather to arrive.
Millerandage and coulure can also pose problems, along with
powdery mildew attacking the thin skin of the grapes. Because
of Chardonnay's early ripening, it can thrive in wine regions
with a short growing season and, in regions like Burgundy,
will be harvested before autumn rain sets in and brings
the threat of rot.
Chardonnay can adapt to almost all vineyard soils, the three
it seems to like most are chalk, clay and limestone, all
very prevalent throughout Chardonnay's traditional "homeland".
The Grand crus of Chablis are planted on hillsides composed
of Kimmeridgian marl, limestone and chalk. The outlying
regions, falling under the more basic "Petit Chablis" appellation,
are planted on portlandian limestone which produces wines
with less finesse. Chalk beds are found throughout the Champagne
region, and the Cote d'Or has many areas composed of limestone
and clay. In Burgundy, the amount of limestone to which
the Chardonnay are vines exposed also seems to have some
effect on the resulting wine. In the Meursault region, the
premier cru vineyards planted at Meursault-Charmes
have topsoil almost 78 inches (2.0 m) above limestone
and the resulting wines are very rich and rounded. In the
nearby Les Perrieres vineyard, the topsoil is only around
12 inches (30 centimeters) above the limestone and
the wine from that region is much more powerful, minerally
and tight, needing longer in the bottle to develop fully.
In other areas, soil type can compensate for lack of ideal
climate conditions. In South Africa for example, regions
with stonier, shaley soils and high clay levels tend to
produce lower-yielding and more Burgundian-style wine, despite
having a discernibly warmer climate than France. In contrast,
South African Chardonnay produced from more sandstone-based
vineyards tend to be richer and more weighty.
with Pinot blanc
to some ampelographical similarities, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay were often mistaken for
each other and even today share many of the same synonyms.
The grape vines, leaves and clusters look identical at first
glance but there are some subtle differences. The most visible
of these can be observed as the grapes are ripening, with
Chardonnay grapes taking on a more golden-green color than
Pinot Blanc grapes. On closer inspection, the grapevine
will show slight differences in the texture and length of
the hairs on the vine's shoot, and the veins of a Chardonnay
leaf are "naked" near the petiolar sinus the open area where
the leaf connects to the stem is delineated by veins at
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the few other Vitis vinifera
grape vines to share this characteristic.
This confusion between Pinot blanc and Chardonnay was very
pervasive throughout northern Italy, where the two vines
grew interspersed in the vineyard and were blended in winemaking.
Not until 1978 did the Italian government dispatch researchers
to try to distinguish the two vines. A similar situation
occurred in France, with the two vines being commonly confused
until the mid 19th century, when ampelographers began combing
through the vineyards of Chablis and Burgundy, identifying
the true Chardonnay and weeding out the Pinot Blanc.
Chardonnay is the second most widely planted white grape
variety just behind Ugni blanc (Trebbiano)
and ahead of Semillon and Sauvignon blanc. The grape first
rose to prominence in the Chablis and Burgundy regions.
In Champagne, it is most often blended with Pinot noir and
Pinot meunier but is also used to produce single varietal
blanc de blancs styles of sparkling wine. Chardonnay
can be found in Appellation d'origine contrĂ´lĂ©e
(AOC) wines of the Loire Valley and Jura wine region as
well as the Vin de pays wines of the Languedoc.
is one of the dominant grapes in Burgundy though Pinot noir
vines outnumber it by nearly a 3 to 1 ratio. In addition
to Chablis, it is found in the Cote d'Or (largely in the
CĂ´te de Beaune) as well as the CĂ´te Chalonnaise and MĂ˘connais.
It is grown in 8 Grand cru vineyards; The "Montrachets"-Montrachet,
Criots-BĂ˘tard-Montrachet, BĂ˘tard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet,
Bienvenues-BĂ˘tard-Montrachet as well as Charlemagne, Corton-Charlemagne
& Le Musigny. In addition to being the most expensive,
the Burgundy examples of Chardonnay were long considered
the benchmark standard of expressing terroir through
Chardonnay. The Montrachets are noted for their high alcohol
levels, often above 13%, as well as deep concentration of
flavors. The vineyards around Chassagne-Montrachet tend
to have a characteristic hazelnut aroma to them while those
of Puligny-Montrachet have more steely flavors. Both grand
cru and premier cru examples from Corton-Charlemagne have
been known to demonstrate marzipan while Meursault wines
tend to be the most round and buttery examples.
of the CĂ´te d'Or is the CĂ´te Chalonnaise and Maconnais
wine regions. The villages of Mercurey, Montagny-lĂ¨s-Buxy
and Rully are the largest producers of Chardonnay in the
CĂ´te Chalonnaise with the best made examples rivaling those
of the CĂ´te de Beaune. In the MĂ˘connais, white wine production
is centered around the town of MĂ˘con and the Pouilly-FuissĂ©
region. The full bodied wines of the Pouilly-FuissĂ© have
long held cult wine status with prices that can rival the
Grand cru white burgundies. Further south, in the region
of Beaujolais, Chardonnay has started to replace Aligote
as the main white wine grape and is even replacing Gamay
in some areas around Saint-VĂ©ran.
With the exception of Pouilly-FuissĂ©, the wines of the
MĂ˘connais are the closest Burgundy example to "New World"
Chardonnay though it is not identical. Typically MĂ˘con
blanc, basic Bourgogne, Beaujolais blanc and Saint-VĂ©ran
are meant to be consumed within 2 to 3 years of release.
However, many of the well made examples of white Burgundy
from the CĂ´te d'Or will need at least three years in the
bottle to develop enough to express the aromas and character
of the wine. Hazelnut, licorice and spice are some of the
flavors that can develop as these wines age.
is the only permitted AOC grape variety in the Chablis region
with the wines here developing such worldwide recognition
that the name "chablis" has taken on semi-generic connotations
to mean any dry white wine, even those not made from Chardonnay.
The name is protected in the European Union and for wine
sold in the EU, "Chablis" refers only to the Chardonnay
wine produced in this region of the Yonne departement.
The region sits on the outer edges of the Paris Basin. On
the other side of the basin is the village of Kimmeridge
in England which gives it name to the Kimmeridgean soil
that is located throughout Chablis. The French describe
this soil as "argilo-calcaire" and is a composition
of clay, limestone and fossilized oyster shells. The most
expensive examples of Chardonnay from Chablis comes from
the seven Grand Cru vineyards that account for around 247 acres
(100 ha) on the southwest side of one slope along the Serein
river near the town of Chablisâ€”Blanchots, Bougros, Les
Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur and VaudĂ©sir. The wines
from these crus most often capture the gout de pierre
fusil or "gunflint" quality that is characterized
of Chablis wine.
was believed to be first planted in Chablis by the Cistercians
at Pontigny Abbey in the 12th century.
Today, the Chardonnay made in the Chablis region is one
of the "purest" expression of the varietal character of
the grape due to the simplistic style of winemaking favored
in this region. Chablis winemakers want to emphasis the
terroir of the calcareous soil and cooler climate
that help maintain high acidity. The wines rarely will go
through malolactic fermentation or be exposed to oak (though
its use is increasing). The biting, green apple-like acidity
is a trademark of Chablis and can be noticeable in the bouquet.
The acidity can mellow with age and Chablis are some of
the longest living examples of Chardonnay. Some examples
of Chablis can have an earthy "wet stone" flavor that can
get mustier as it ages before mellowing into delicate honeyed
notes. The use of
oak is controversial in the Chablis community with some
winemakers dismissing it as counter to the "Chablis style"
or terroir while other embrace its use though not
to the length that would characterized a "New World" Chardonnay.
The winemakers that do use oak tend to favor more neutral
oak that doesn't impart the vanilla characteristic associated
with American oak. The amount of "char" in the barrel is
often very light which limits the amount of "toastiness"
that is perceived in the wine. The advocates of oak in Chablis
point to the positive benefits of allowing limited oxygenation
with the wine through the permeable oak barrels. This can
have the effect of softening the wine and make the generally
austere and acidic Chablis more approachable at a younger
Champagne, Chardonnay is one of three major grape varieties
planted in the region. It is most commonly found in the
Aube and Marne departments which, combined with Chablis,
accounted for more than half of all plantings of Chardonnay
in France during the 20th century. In the Cote des Blancs
(white slope) district of the Marne, Chardonnay thrives
on the chalk soil. The three main villages around the CĂ´te
grow Chardonnay that emphasizes certain characteristics
that the Champagne producers seek depending on their house
style. The village of Avize grows grapes that produce the
lightest wines, Cramant makes the most aromatic and Mesnil
produces wines with the most acidity. The Cote des Blancs
is the only district in the Champagne region that is predominately
planted with Chardonnay. In the four other main districts-Aube,
Cote de Sezanne, Montagne de Reims, and VallĂ©e de la Marne-Chardonnay
lags behind Pinot noir in planting. In the outlaying region
of Aisne, only Pinot Meunier has a significant presence.
Despite being less planted, the Blanc de Blancs style
of Champagne (made from only Chardonnay grapes) is far more
commonly produced than Blanc de Noirs. This is partly
because Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier produce very coarse
and heavy wines that lack the finesse and balance that Chardonnay
brings to the mix. Non-sparkling still wine Chardonnay is
produced under the Coteaux Champenois AOC. The wine is much
more acidic than that of Chablis and is normally made bone-dry.
receiving the same amount of sunshine as the Chablis region,
Chardonnay grapes in Champagne rarely attain full ripeness.
This is due to the mean average temperature of the region
being around 51 °F (11 °C), barely above the minimum
average temperature needed to ripen grapes. Therefore the
Chardonnay grapes do not fully develop its fruit flavors
and the still version of Champagne can taste very "un-Chardonnay"-like
because of this. However, it does lessen the premium on
needing to keep yields low that other wine regions much
battle with since not much flavor is going to develop in
the grapes anyway. Rather the element in Chardonnay that
Champagne winemakers look for is the finesse and balance
of acidity that it brings to the blend. Some flavors that
can emerge from, particularly with extended time on its
lees, include creamy and nuttiness with some floral notes.
Chablis and Burgundy account for more than three-fifths
of all Chardonnay plantings in France. The next largest
concentration is found in the Languedoc where it was first
planted around the town of Limoux and up to 30% can be blended
with Mauzac in the sparkling Blanquette de Limoux.
By the year 2000, there was more than 22,200 acres
(9,000 ha) planted with many being used for wines under
the Vin de Pays d'Oc. These wines were unique in
that they were some of the first examples of Chardonnay
to be varietally labeled as "Chardonnay". Other French wine
regions with Chardonnay plantings include Alsace, ArdĂ¨che,
Jura, Savoie and the Loire Valley.
In Jura, Chardonnay is sometimes treated to the same type
of flor yeast found in Sherry (though the wine is rarely,
if ever, fortified) and it is used to create vin de paille
dessert wines. Here the grape is known as Melon d'Arbois
or Gamay blanc and is sometimes blended with Savagnin. It
is most widely found in Arbois, CĂ´tes du Jura and L'Ă‰toile
AOCs. In the Loire, up to 20% of Chardonnay can be included
in the Chenin blanc based wines of Anjou blanc and
more producers are using the grape to soften some of the
edges of Chenin blanc.
It can also be used in the sparkling wines of Saumur and
some Muscadet producers have begun experimenting with oak
America, particularly California, Chardonnay found another
region where it could thrive and produce a style of wine
that was noticeably different than that of France. It is
the dominant white wine variety of the area, overtaking
Riesling in 1990. In the United States it is found most
notably in California, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington
but also in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut,
Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts,
Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey,
New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South
Carolina, Tennessee and Vermont wine. In Canada, Chardonnay
is found in British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec.
first successful commercial production of California Chardonnay
was from plantings in the Livermore Valley AVA. Wente Vineyards
developed a Chardonnay clone that was used to introduce
the grape variety in several Californian vineyards throughout
the 1940s. In the 1950s James Zellerbach, one time US ambassador
to Rome, started Hanzell Winery and dedicated it to making
Burgundian style Chardonnay. His success would encourage
other Californian winemakers to follow suit and culminated
in Chateau Montelena's victory over Burgundy Chardonnay
in the 1976 blind tasting event conducted by French judges
known as the Judgment of Paris. In response, the demand
for Californian Chardonnay increased and Californian winemakers
rushed to increase plantings. In the 1980s,
the popularity of Californian Chardonnay would explode so
much that the number of vines planted in the state eclipsed
that of France by 1988. By 2005 there was nearly 100,000 acres
(40,000 ha) accounting for almost 25% of the world's total
Chardonnay plantings. The early trend was to imitate the
great Burgundy wines but soon gave way to more rich buttery
and oaked styles.
Starting with the 1970s, the focus was on harvesting the
grapes at more advance degrees of ripeness and at higher
Brix levels. New oak barrels were used to produce wines
that were big in body and mouthfeel. Frank J. Prial of The
New York Times was an early critic of this style, particularly
because of the lack of "food friendliness" that was common
with these massive wines. Another
criticism of California Chardonnays, and one that has been
levied against other Californian wines, is the very high
alcohol levels which can make a wine seem out of balance.
In recent years, Californian winemakers have been using
process such as reverse osmosis and spinning cones to bring
the alcohol levels down to between 12 and 14%.
Californian wine regions that seem to favor producing premium
quality Chardonnay are the ones that are most influenced,
climatically, by coastal fogs that can slow the ripening
of the grape and give it more time to develop its flavors.
The regions of Alexander Valley, Los Carneros, Santa Maria
Valley, Russian River Valley and other parts of Sonoma county
have shown success in producing wines that reflect more
Other regions often associated with Chardonnay include Napa
Valley, Monterey County and Santa Barbara County. The California
Central Valley is home to many mass produced Chardonnay
brands as well as box and jug wine production. While the
exact style of the wine will vary from producer, some of
the terroir characteristics associated with California
Chardonnay include "flinty" notes with the Russian River
Valley and mango & guava from Monterey. A large portion
of the Californian sparkling wine industry uses Chardonnay
grapes from Carneros, Alexander and Russian River valleys
with these areas attracting the attention of Champagne producers
like Bollinger, Louis Roederer, MoĂ«t et Chandon and the
Taittinger family who have opened up wineries in last few
was one of the first European grape varietals to have been
grown commercially east of the Rocky Mountains. After three
centuries of failure with vinifera this achievement was
realized in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.
Frenchman, Charles Fournier and Russian, Konstantin Frank
experimented with Chardonnay and other varietals in hopes
of producing sparkling wines based on Old World grapes for
the Gold Seal wine company. In the late 1950s they succeeded
in harvesting the first commercial quantities of European
grapes in eastern North America.
Frank went on to found the Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine
Cellars which helped demonstrate that a winery in the eastern
United States could produce European style wines as a basis
for a winery business. Chardonnay became an important part
of that strategy.
York, like Burgundy and Washington State, is a cool climate
viticultural region. Being cold tolerant, the Chardonnay
grape is well suited for New York State. Not only can it
endure New York's cold winters but the varietal buds late
reducing the risk of spring frosts. New Yorkâ€™s comparatively
cooler growing season causes slower ripening requiring a
longer time on the vine which may allow the grapes to develop
greater complexity and character at more reasonable sugar
levels than warmer Chardonnay producing regions. New York
has subsequently developed significant plantings of the
since Fournier and Frankâ€™s early experiments.
states and Canada
Chardonnays can be very similar to Californian Chardonnays
but there tends to be more emphasis on fruit than creaminess.
In 2000, it was the most widely planted premium wine grape
in the state. Rather than using Dijon clones, Washington
vineyards are planted with clones developed at the University
of California-Davis that are designed to take longer to
ripen in the warmer weather of the state's wine regions.
This allows winemakers to maintain the acidity levels that
balances the fruity and flint earthiness that have characterized
Washington Chardonnay. Apple notes are common and depending
on producer and appellation can range from flavors of Golden
Delicious and Fuji to Gala and Jonathan.
In Oregon, the introduction of Dijon clones from Burgundy
has helped to adapt the grape to the Oregon climate and
Chardonnay has seen some success with rich, oaky styles
produced in Ontario and lighter styles produced in Quebec
and British Columbia. The Chardonnay
vintages of the early 1990s from British Columbia helped
generate international attention to the quality of Canadian
wines apart from ice wine varietals. In British Columbia,
Chardonnay from the Okanagan are characterized by delicate
citrus fruits. They are typically light bodied but producers
who use barrel fermentation and oak aging can produce fuller
and New Zealand
many grape varieties, Chardonnay first came to Australia
in the collection of James Busby in 1832, but it only really
took off in the 1950s. It is most significant in South Australia,
New South Wales â€” especially the Hunter Valley - and Victoria. One
of the first commercially successful Chardonnays was produced
by Murray Tyrrell in the Hunter Valley in 1971. Tyrell's
vineyard was planted with Chardonnay cuttings that he "borrowed"
from Penfolds' experimental plantings by hopping over their
barb-wire fence one night and pruning their vines. The export
driven Australian wine industry was well situated for the
Chardonnay boom of the 1980s and 1990s and Australia responded
with a unique style of wine that was characterized by big
fruit flavors and easy approachability. To compensate for
the very warm climate, richness was enhanced by the use
of oak chips and acid was added during fermentation. During
this period the number of Chardonnay plants increased fivefold
and by 1990 it was the most widely planted white wine grape
in Australia and third most planted overall behind Shiraz
and Cabernet Sauvignon. Early in the 21st century, demand
outpaced supply and there was a shortage of Chardonnay grapes
which prompted Australian winemakers to introduce new blending
partners like Semillon (known
as "SemChard") and Colombard.
a rather neutral grape, Australian winemakers first approached
Chardonnay in the same manner they were making wine from
the similarly neutral Sultana grape. Aromatic yeast were
added and maceration was extended to get more flavors from
skin contact. While the
style of Australian Chardonnay is mostly characterized by
the mass produced products of the hot Riverland region,
the cooler climates of Victoria and Tasmania has been creating
more crisp, less oaked wines with lime notes. In the
Cowra region, Chardonnay's citrus notes are emphasized while
Hunter Valley examples have more richness and smoky notes.
The Yarra Valley produces the most Burgundian style while
Mount Barker in the Great Southern, Western Australia produces
Chardonnay that more closely resembles those of Chablis.
A rare, isolated clone exist in the Mudgee region that local
believe traces its ancestry back to some of the first vines
brought to Australia in the 19th century. While the wine
made from this clone is not particularly distinguished,
it can still be of very good quality. Overall, there
has been a shift in style since the 1980s from deep golden,
oily wines with melon and butterscotch flavors to lighter,
paler Chardonnays with more structure and notes of white
peaches and nectarines. Sparkling wines from Chardonnay
are produced in the cool regions of Geelong, Macedon Ranges
being more famous for its Sauvignon blanc production, Chardonnay
was New Zealand's most widely planted grape variety from
1990 till 2002 when Sauvignon blanc finally surpassed it.
The east coast of the North Island, in places like Hawke's
Bay and Wairarapa, have seen the most success with Chardonnay
wine that has noticeable acidity and leanness.
As better clonal varieties are discovered and planted, the
overall quality of New Zealand Chardonnay have increased,
particularly from places like Canterbury, Marlborough and
Some producers in the Gisborne region have recently developed
a cult following for their Chardonnay among New Zealand
While many New Zealand winemakers are still developing a
characteristic style, the Chardonnay produced so far have
emphasized the grape's affinity for oak.
has a long history in Italy but for a large part of it,
the grape was commonly confused with Pinot blancâ€”often
with both varieties inter planted in the same vineyard and
blended together. This happened despite the fact that Chardonnay
grapes get more golden yellow in color close to harvest
time and can be visually distinguished from Pinot blanc.
In the Trentino-Alto Adige/SĂĽdtirol region this confusion
appeared in the synonyms for each grape with Pinot blanc
being known as "Weissburgunder" (White Burgundy) and Chardonnay
was known as "Gelber Weissburgunder" (Golden White Burgundy).
By the late 20th century, more concentrated efforts were
put into identifying Chardonnay and making pure varietal
versions of the wine. In 1984, it was granted its first
Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) in the
Alto Adige region. By 2000, it was Italy's fourth most widely
planted white wine grape.
many varietal form of Chardonnay are produced, and the numbers
are increasing, for most of its history in Italian winemaking
Chardonnay was a blending grape. Besides Pinot bianco, Chardonnay
can be found in blends with Albana, Catarratto, Cortese,
Erbaluce, Favorita, Garganega, Grecanico, Incrocio Manzoni,
Nuragus, Procanico, Ribolla Gialla, Verdeca, Vermentino
and Viognier. It even blended into a dry White Zinfandel-style
Nebbiolo wine that is made from the white juice of the red
Nebbiolo grape prior to being dyed with skin contact.
Most Chardonnay plantings are located in the northern wine
regions, though plantings can be found throughout Italy
as far south as Sicily and Apulia. In Piedmont and Tuscany,
the grape is being planted in sites that are less favorable
to Dolcetto and Sangiovese respectively. In Lombardy, the
grape is often used for spumante and in the Veneto
it is often blended with Garganega to give more weight and
structure to the wine. Chardonnay is also found in the Valle
d'Aosta DOC and Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine region.
to quarantine restrictions, plant cuttings were often smuggled
into South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s and many times
were misidentified as to what grape variety it really was.
A large portion of the Chardonnay plantings from this period
turned out to be Auxerrois Blanc. (A similar event happened
in the German wine region of Baden during the 1980s.)
By the late 1990s, efforts to promote "authentic" Chardonnay
helped to increase plantings and by 2004 it was the 3rd
most widely planted white wine grape behind Chenin blanc
and Colombard. Winemakers
in the Western Cape have experimented blending Chardonnay
with Riesling and Sauvignon blanc.
of the regions discussed above, Chardonnay can be found
in cooler climate sites in Greece, Israel and Lebanon as
well as Austria, Bulgaria, England, Georgia, Germany, Hungary,
Macedonia, Moldova, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain,
Serbia and Switzerland. In Austria, the grape varieties
known as Feinburgunder in Burgenland & Vienna
and Morillon in Styria was not identified as Chardonnay
till the late 1980s. Today, Austrian Chardonnays range from
the rich, oaked aged varieties to leaner, more aromatic
styles based on Austrian Rieslings to sweet late harvest
styles. In nearby Germany, this distinctly French wine grape
was slow to gain a footing being only officially sanctioned
since 1991. Today it is most commonly found in the Baden,
Palatinate and Rheinhessen regions. In Switzerland, Chardonnay
is found mostly around BĂĽndner Herrschaft, Geneva and Valais.
In Spain, Chardonnay has been increasingly used in the sparkling
wine Cava. It is also permitted in the DenominaciĂłn
de Origen (DO) wines of Costers del Segre, Navarra and
Somontano. In the wine regions of the former Soviet Union,
Chardonnay has lagged behind in white wine grapes plantings
in favor Rkatsiteli, Aligote and Riesling.
The Portuguese experimentation with Chardonnay has been
mostly influenced by flying winemakers from Australia and
the examples produced so far are very New World in style.
cool-climate South American wine regions of Argentina's
Uco Valley and Chile's Casablanca, Chardonnay has started
to develop a presence. In the 1990s, Chardonnay became the
second most widely planted white grape variety in Argentina-second
only TorrontĂ©s. In Chile, it has surpassed Sauvignon blanc
and Sauvignon vert to be the most widely planted white wine
grape. India and Uruguay have been steadily increasing their
lends itself to most any style of wine making from dry still
wines, to sparkling wines to sweet late harvest and even
botrytized wines (though its susceptibility to other less
favorable rot makes these wines more rare). The two winemaking
decisions that most widely affect the end result of a Chardonnay
wine is whether or not to use malolactic fermentation and
the degree of oak influence used for the wine. With malolactic
fermentation (or MLF), the harder malic acid gets converted
into the softer lactic acid which creates the "buttery-ness"
that is associated with some styles of Chardonnay. The wines
that do not go though MLF will have more green apple like
flavors. Oak can be introduced during fermentation or after
in the form of the barrel aging.
Depending on the amount of charring that the oak was treated
with, this can introduce a "toastiness" and flavors that
many wine drinkers mistake as a characteristic of the grape
itself. These flavors can include caramel, cream, smoke,
spice, coconut, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla.
winemaking decisions that can have a significant effect
include the temperature of fermentation and what time, if
any, that the wine allowed to spend aging on the lees. Burgundian
winemaking tends to favor extended contact on the lees and
even "stirring up" the lees within the wine while it is
aging in the barrel in a process known as bĂ˘ttonage.
Colder fermentation temperatures produces more "tropical"
fruit flavors like mango and pineapple. The "Old
World" style of winemaking favors the use of wild, or ambient
yeast, though some will also use specially cultivated yeast
that can impart aromatic qualities to the wine. A particular
style of yeast used in Champagne is the Prise de Mousse
that is cultivated for use world wide in sparkling Chardonnay
wines. A potential drawback of using wild yeast is that
the fermentation process can go very slow with the results
of the yeasts being very unpredictable and producing potentially
a very different wine each year. One Burgundian winemaker
that favors the use of only wild yeast is Domaine des Comtes
Lafon which had the fermentation of its 1963 Chardonnay
batch take 5 years to complete when the fermentation process
normally only takes a matter of weeks.
time of harvesting is a crucial decision because the grape
quickly begins to lose acidity as it ripens. For sparkling
wine production, the grapes will be harvested early and
slightly unripe to maintain the acid levels. Sparkling Chardonnay
based wines tend to exhibit more floral and steely flavors
in their youth. As the wine ages, particularly if it spends
significant time on lees, the wines will develop "toasty"
Chardonnay grapes usually have little trouble developing
sugar content, even in cooler climates, which translates
into high potential alcohol levels and limits the need for
chaptalization. On the flip side, low acid levels can be
a concern which make the wine taste "flabby" and dull. Winemakers
can counteract this by adding tartaric acid in a process
known as "acidification". In cooler climates, the extract
and acidity of Chardonnay is magnified which has the potential
of producing very concentrated wines that can develop through
bottle aging. Chardonnay
can blend well with other grapes and still maintain some
of its unique character. The grapes most often blended with
Chardonnay include Chenin blanc, Colombard and Semillon.
to the "malleability" of Chardonnay in winemaking and its
ability to reflect its terroir, there is not one
distinct universal "style" or set of constants that could
be applied to Chardonnay made across the globe. According
to Jancis Robinson, a sense of "smokiness" is one clue that
could be picked up in a blind tasting of Chardonnay but
there are many styles that do not have any "smokey" notes.
Compared to other white wine grapes like Sauvignon blanc,
Gewurztraminer and Viognier-Chardonnay has a more subtle
and muted nose with no overwhelming aromatics that jump
out of the wine glass. The identifying styles of Chardonnay
are regionally based. For example, pineapple notes are more
commonly associated with Chardonnay from Napa Valley while
Chablis will have more notes of green apples.
While many examples of Chardonnay can benefit from a few
years of bottle aging, especially if they have high acidity,
most Chardonnays are meant to be consumed in their youth.
A notable exception to this is the most premium examples
of Chablis and white Burgundies.
to the wide range of styles, Chardonnay has the potential
to be paired with a diverse spectrum of food types. It is
most commonly paired with roast chicken and other white
meats such as turkey. Heavily oak influenced Chardonnays
do not pair well with more delicate fish and seafood dish.
Instead, those wines tend to go better with smoked fish,
spicy southeast Asian cuisine, garlic and guacamole dips.
The regional influences of Chardonnay can help it pair with
different food styles. Chardonnays from Washington, which
is characterized by maintaining more acidity, tend to pair
well with tomato-based dishes and items featuring sweet
onions. Older, more mellow Chardonnays are often paired
with more "earthy" dishes like mushroom soup and aged cheese.