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Synonyms: Chardonnay, Morillon (Austria)

Wine Name: Chardonnay, Chablis, White Burgundy, Burgundy Villages names, Blanc de Blanc (for many sparkling wines)

Background: In a cool climate, the Chardonnay grape takes on apple and green plum aromas. It may have a steely, mineral taste, with a light to medium body and medium (+) to high acidity. The Chablis and Champagne districts of France would be examples of this. In aged bottles of older vintages, there might be a clover honey taste. Other white French Burgundies (all Chardonnay grape) might be the same except less minerally and flinty due to a different soil.

In warm or hot climates Chardonnay may produce melon, peach, banana, mango and fig aromas but which are not very pronounced. It will be a medium acid, medium to full bodied wine such as found in a California or South Australian Chardonnay. If the Chardonnay has undergone malolactic fermentation (an additional fermentation with bacteria rather than yeast) and been fermented in small oak barrels, it might have rich, creamy pear, fig, hazelnut and vanilla (from the oak) flavors, with a long, luxurious finish and not acidic tasting at all.

Chardonnay takes well to oak flavors obtained by fermenting and/or aging in oak barrels with various percentages of new, vanillin flavored wood. Oaked Chardonnay can be slight, light, medium or heavy in vanillin flavor depending upon the winemaking techniques used. Almost all of the time if oak is used, malolactic fermentation produces a softening, creaminess and the perception of low acidity.

Classic Brands and Sources: Many French White Burgundy producers; Australia – Cape Mentelle, Grosset. Leeuwin, Nepenthe, Plantagenet; USA – Chateau St Jean, Chateau Montelena, Aubert, Au Bon Climat, Hanzell, Kistler, Shafer, Marcassin, Chateau Ste Michelle, Kendall-Jackson, Newton, Beringer; New Zealand – Kumeu River, Babich, Cloudy Bay, Dry River, Vavasour, Villa Maria; Chile – Montes, Tabali, Viña Casablanca; Argentina – Lucca

Characteristics: Acidity (tartness) like a Granny Smith green apple, and an “apple” aroma and taste (yellow or green) are hallmarks of unoaked Chardonnay wine, but they lessen if oak is used in aging the wine. Malolactic fermentation is different than oak influence, although the malolactic bacteria and yeasts that convert tart malic acid to soft lactic acid, often come from oak barrels that have previously been used for aging (old oak). Thus Chardonnay wines can be chameleons of aroma and taste ranging from apple and lemon to tropical and buttery and toasty. It is important with Chardonnay wines to identify the style of the wine that the winemaker and terroir produced before recommending, pairing, or liking it.

Style #1 – Chablis styleBody – light

Acidity – high

Sweetness – dry, minerally

Tannins – low

Style #2 – unoaked, warm climateBody – light to medium (-)

Acidity – medium (+)

Sweetness – dry, fruity

Tannins – low

Style #3 – lightly oaked cool climate
(white Burgundy style)Body – medium (-)Acidity – mediumSweetness – dryTannins – low
Style #4- lightly oaked warm climateBody – medium

Acidity – medium (-)

Sweetness – dry, fruity

Tannins – medium (-) to medium

Style #5 – moderately oaked, warm climateBody – medium(+) to full

Acidity – low

Sweetness – dry, but creamy

Tannins – medium (-) to medium


Wine and food pairing guidelines:
Unoaked – Pairs with medium bodied acidic foods.
Oaked – Pairs well with medium-bodied dishes that are buttery, fatty, savory or roasted or smoky

Foods and Entrees that usually pair:
Unoaked – Pairs with fish, shellfish, chicken, pork and veal with citric and other acidic sauces; salads, sushi
Oaked – Pairs with heavier fish, shellfish, chicken, pork and veal with buttery, creamy or other savory sauces; pastas with buttery, pesto or cheese sauces, truffles, smoked salmon

Cheese Pairings:
Unoaked – Boursin herbed (cool climate), Brick, Derby, Feta (sheep’s milk), goat cheese, Gouda, Havarti, Majorero (Spanish hard goat cheese) Mahon, Bucheron (French goat cheese), dry Jack cheese, Cream (warm weather), Neufchatel , Saint -Felicien (French cow;s milk cheese), Raclette, Pave Affinois
Oaked – Mild cheddar, Chaumes, Double Glouchester (similar to mild cheddar),Gouda, Smoked Gouda, Manchego, Monterey Jack, Triple Creme, St André, St Nectaire Zamarano (Spanish sheep’s milk cheese), Brie and Camembert (with or without rinds)

Appetizer Pairings: See Appetizers that Pair with Chardonnay