Chardonnay is the most popular white wine in the world. Depending on the style it can be light, fresh, and crisp if unoaked or rich, buttery and full-bodied if oaked. It is very versatile and grows nearly everywhere with different taste variations. It gives its best in clay, limestone, and chalky soil.
Only the Blanc de Blancs produced in the Champagne region in France can be called Champagne. The others must be called sparkling wine.
Have you ever found yourself staring at many Chardonnay bottles wondering which one you would like best? Keep reading and you’ll find the answer and much more!
I’ve organized the content below in small sections to make it easy to read. I must confess I’m quite happy with the research and work done. As always wine tasting was my favorite part!😋
Use the table of content below to jump straight to the section. In this article you’ll learn more about:
Keep reading to become a Chardonnay expert!
Unoaked Chardonnay Overview
Unoaked Chardonnay Taste Profile
These are some of the most common aromas and flavors of Unoaked Chardonnay.
Unoaked Chardonnay Food Pairing
These are some food pairing suggestions for Unoaked Chardonnay.
Serve and Store Unoaked Chardonnay
The fermentation and aging in stainless steel give crispness and brightness to the wine. That is why unoaked Chardonnay is similar in taste to Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc but without herbaceous flavors.
When you read Chablis on the label, you’ll know it’s Chardonnay. Chablis is a French region within Burgundy. Chardonnay produced here is generally fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks.
Oaked Chardonnay Overview
Oaked Chardonnay Taste Profile
These are some of the most common aromas and flavors of Oaked Chardonnay.
Oaked Chardonnay Food Pairing
These are some food pairing suggestions for Oaked Chardonnay.
Serve and Store Oaked Chardonnay
Oaked Chardonnay is quite different in taste from Unoaked Chardonnay. It generally is rich, rounded, creamy, full-body wine with tertiary flavors of Vanilla, butter, spice, caramel, and honey.
The tertiary flavors are from the oak aging and fermentation process. The rounded, creamy texture is from the malolactic formation and the contact with the lees, or dead yeast which reduces wine’s acidity.
Sparkling Blanc de Blancs
Here we’ll primarily focus on Blanc de Blancs which is made with 100% white grapes, and usually Chardonnay.
Sparkling Blanc de Blancs Overview
Sparkling Blanc de Blancs Taste Profile
These are some of the most common aromas and flavors of Sparkling Blanc de Blancs.
Sparkling Blanc de Blancs Food Pairing
These are some food pairing suggestions for Blanc de Blancs.
Serve and Store Sparkling Blanc de Blancs
You’ll commonly find a sweetness level, called “dosage”, in the label that it’s needed to counterbalance the high acidity. The “dosage”, in sweetness order, can be: Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra-Dry, Dry, and Doux. Brut is the most common.
Only the wine produced in the Champagne region in France can be called Champagne. The others, even if produced with the same method, must be called sparkling wine.
Malolactic fermentation is a usual process for wines made only with Chardonnay.
A little bit of Chardonnay history
Experts agree that the Chardonnay grape was born in France in the Burgundy region. Chardonnay is the result of a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais blanc  as per a recent study from the University of California, Davis .
Chardonnay gained increased popularity in California from the famous Chateau Montelena’s blind tasting in Paris in 1976. Check out the movie “Bottle Shock” . Since 2000 Chardonnay is the most widely planted grape in California.
These days Chardonnay is the most widely planted white grape globally and the second most planted white grape in France, followed by Sauvignon Blanc.
What does Chardonnay mean?
“Chardonnay” comes from the Latin world “Cardonnacum” or “wild thistle”. That’s the name the Roman gave to the area where the Chardonnay village was located. The belief is that Chardonnay wine was named after this village.
Where does Chardonnay grow best?
Chardonnay’s an extremely versatile grape that grows worldwide in different climates and soil. Chardonnay does best in clay, limestone, and chalky soil. The climate affects the tasting profile of the wine in the following ways:
- Cool climate Chardonnay tends to be mineral with citrus flavor, high acidity, and medium body. Regional areas examples: France (Champagne, Burgundy), Northern Italy, US (Sonoma Coast), New Zealand.
- Warm climate Chardonnay tends to have tropical and stone fruit ripe flavor, lower acidity, and full body. Like Sauvignon Blanc, if the over-ripening is not properly controlled it will considerably reduce aromas and acidity. Regional areas examples: Southern Italy, South Australia, and South Africa.
When is the perfect time to drink Chardonnay?
Some curiosities about Chardonnay
- There is an International Chardonnay day and it’s the Friday in May.
- On top of Blanc de Blancs, Chardonnay grapes are also blended with other grapes for other Champagne styles. These grapes are Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier . Examples of sparkling wines that used Chardonnay grapes are Crémant  and Franciacorta .
- The winemaking methods for Oaked Chardonnay have a great influence on its taste profile. For this reason, it is said to be “made in the winery”.
- Due to their similarities in the grapevines, leaves, and clusters, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc were often mistaken for each other. This is the reason why even these days they have many identical synonyms.
- Chardonnay’s most known synonyms are Pinot Blanc Chardonnay, Pinot Chardonnay, and Feiner Weisser Burgunder.
What’s Chardonnay's typical price range?
- Chardonnay White Wine price range is on average between $10-$50. You’ll find more expensive Chardonnay over $100. In case you have some spare cash, there is a rare example of over $10’000 a bottle, yes $10’000, such as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru.
- Blanc de Blancs varies in price:
- Champagne is more expensive, you can get good quality at a price range of $30-$70.
- Sparkling Wine is cheaper and generally in a price range of $20-$50.