Chardonnay is the most popular white wine in the world. The versatility of the grape and the large flavor profile of the finished product make it a favorite of many. Terroir and climate are important for imbuing flavor into the wine, however Chardonnay is easily and effectively molded by a winemaker’s vision. The result is large a difference in the wine from producer to producer and the ability to produce a bottle of wine that will suit almost anyone.
A winemaker may choose to pick grapes earlier with intent to produce a more acidic wine, or pick them later to produce a sweeter wine. If a wine maker chooses to age it in oak (as I personally prefer), it results in a full buttery body with tones of vanilla and burnt sugar. A Chardonnay that is aged in a stainless-steel tank rather than oak will be lighter in body and more crisp in flavor.
Like with Pinot Noir, the soil and terroir of Burgundy France is considered some of the best for Chardonnay production. Wines from this region typically taste of pear, green apple, honey suckle, and fig. The heartiness and adaptability of Chardonnay vines has helped wine makers around the world to produce high quality offerings. Tasting notes outside of France include lemon, papaya, pineapple, and a variety of different herbs, spices, and floral notes.
The Chardonnay grape is quite versatile. Chardonnay is also used to make Champagne. When making Champagne the wine maker adds yeast and sugar to the wine and then leaves it to develop. The yeast eats the excess sugar leaving alcohol, co2 (bubbles), and a toasty flavor. One additional note: Chardonnay is occasionally used in blends to add complexity or to adjust the body of an offering.
Chardonnay pairs with a large variety of food. It is perhaps the best option for pairing with seafood – especially shellfish. Additionally, it pairs well with Asian food, chicken, soft and hard cheeses, and is complimented by apple, pear, and dried fruit.
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