Classic aromas of Chardonnay are: Yellow Peach, Lemon, Buttered Bread, Vanilla Bean, Pineapple and Hazelnuts
Chardonnay is one of the true French white grapes with a very long history there. It is historically from the region of Saone-et-Loire, just outside the Loire Valley on the way to Burgundy. It is also the leading grape behind the world’s best Champagnes. In Champagne, it is blended with Pinot Noir – which is funny as Pinot Noir is in fact the parent of Chardonnay, along with Gouais Blanc.
Due to its popularity it has been planted across the world and produced in a large amount of styles from sparkling, dry whites, oaked whites, aromatic blends as well as sweet wines. The best sparkling wines in the world are the classic ‘Champagne’ blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and some of the most exciting white wines are made of Chardonnay. The greatest factor of Chardonnay is that it comes in many characters, in the ways of aroma.
Though it has always been very important in the regions of Burgundy, Champagne, Loire and in the South of France, it suddenly became very popular in the latter part of the 20th century. This popularity has lead to a dramatic increase in plantings around the world. In France alone the space dedicated to Chardonnay has increased from 7,325ha in 1958 to over 44,593ha in 2009. Due to Chardonnay’s ease of ripening it is grown more widely than Cabernet Sauvignon.
Chardonnay is produced in many styles with fantastic wines made from it found all over the wine world. Though the most sought after, and arguably the pinnacle of Chardonnay, is produced in the vineyards of Burgundy. The best wines are produced from the Grand Cru sites – especially Corton-Charlemagne and Montrachet.
Due to its popularity contest win it would be easier for us to tell you where in the world it isn’t planted, rather than the other way around. Nonetheless we shall point out the leading regions of outstanding Chardonnays in the world: Tuscany, Lombardia, Franciacorta in Italy, Spain, Portugal, California, Washington, New York state in the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and in Chile and Argentina.
As mentioned before Chardonnay is a grape with many masks. So the classic tastes of Chardonnay are a much longer list than for any other grape. Unlike many other white, or red, grapes it goes through processes in the winery that amplify and accentuate many flavours coming from the Chardonnay grape. Thanks to lees work (stirring of the yeasts) Chardonnay can have complex biscuity or toasty flavours. Oak ageing will give those classic vanilla and baking spice flavours. A process of malolactic fermentation is a secondary fermentation process that gives the wines butter and creamy flavours and textures.
Unoaked Chardonnays will show more lemon, lime citrus flavours with a mineral character – often akin to smoke or flint. Oaked Chardonnays from cooler climates will have a range of aromas akin to grapefruit, pears, honeysuckle, biscuits and popcorn. Those wines from warmer climates will have rich, concentrated tropical and stonefruit flavours like mango, peach, pineapple, toast, rockmelon, butterscotch and apricot yoghurt.