Chardonnay is the second most planted white varietal in the world, it grows in most wine-producing regions, and is often behind the finest white wines worldwide. Chardonnay is a versatile grape that thrives in many climates, from the cold vineyards of Champagne to sunny Australia.
Chardonnay is also versatile in the winery, as it is compatible with malolactic fermentation and oak aging. The queen of white grapes is a source of both affordable everyday wine and expensive, collector’s wine.
Pineapple (from warm climates)
Vanilla (if oaked)
Butter (if oaked)
Brown spices (if oaked)
Dry, medium to full-bodied
Medium to high acidity (depending on climate)
10% to 15% ABV
How to Serve:
39°F to 50°F / 4°C – 10°C
This depends on the type of Chardonnay; full-bodied oaky Chardonnay is best in larger Burgundy glasses. While unoaked, lighter Chardonnays are best in a smaller, more standard size glass.
The drinking age of Chardonnay can vary wildly, depending on where is is made, and which winery produced it. Here are some very general guidelines:
1-3 years if un-oaked
1-5 if years oaked
5-30 years for the most refined examples
Food & Wine Pairing:
Chardonnay comes in two main styles. The first is wine that is fermented in stainless-steel tanks and aged without oak. The second is oak-aged and usually undergoes malolactic fermentation. The first is youthful and fruit-forward, while the latter is rich and creamy.
Pair un-oaked Chardonnay with seafood, mainly white fish and shellfish. This type of wine is also compatible with fresh cheese. Pair oaked Chardonnay with creamy sauces, rich pastas, oily fish (like salmon and tuna), and white meat. Oaked Chardonnay is also ideal for butter-coated seafood, liked shrimp and lobster.
Chardonnay Fun Facts
The second most widely planted white grape variety in the world is Chardonnay. It is second only to the Airén grape variety in Spain that is used to make brandy and bulk wine.
Chardonnay is a main grape varietal in Champagne and many other sparkling wines, such as Franciacorta, Trento, many Crémants.
Chardonnay is thought to come from a tiny village in Burgundy with the same name. The name originally translated to “place of thistles”.
If a wine says Chablis on the label, it is 100% Chardonnay.
If your Champagne says Blanc de Blanc, it means the Champagne was made from 100% Chardonnay.
Chardonnay is said to be “made in the cellar” because it is possible to alter the original flavor tremendously during the winemaking process with the use of oak.
While Chardonnay from colder regions can have very high acidity, most Chardonnays have a much lower level of acidity.
The California winery, Wente is famous for their Chardonnay clone originally from Burgundy. The clone is now called the Wente clone, and almost 80% of all American Chardonnay vines can trace their origin back to this clone.
For a brief moment in 2002 in the UK, people began naming their kids Chardonnay, after a character on the TV series, ‘Footballer’s Wives’.
Types of Chardonnay:
Chardonnay aged in oak is commonly made in California, Burgundy, and Australia, among other places. These wines are often darker and more golden in color due to oxidation during the oak aging. These bolder Chardonnay wines call for richer seafood and white meat dishes.
These are most famously made in Chablis, but also are made in Chile, New Zealand, and other regions of France.
Chardonnay aged without any oak makes a great pairing for oysters, fish, seafood, mushroom risotto, and many other dishes.
What to Look for in Chardonnay Wine:
Chardonnay is yellow, almost golden, especially if it has spent time in oak barrels due to oxidation. Unoaked Chardonnay is straw-colored with green hues. Unoaked Chardonnay is not dissimilar to other refreshing, light white wines, including Pinot Grigio and Muscadet.
Chardonnay’s aroma depends on the climate in which the grapes grow. Cold-climate Chardonnay offers more apple and pear aromas, while warm-climate Chardonnay is all about tropical fruit scents.
How Much Should You Expect to Spend?
Although some of the most expensive white wines in the world are made with Chardonnay, including Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru for $10,729, many Chardonnays are inexpensive. Expect to pay around $10 for an unoaked example and up to $40 for oaked Chardonnay.