Chardonnay – A Versatile Little Grape

By: Louise Truswell


Chardonnay is an extremely versatile grape, taking on the characteristics of the soil and climate from where it is grown. But this often causes confusion amongst wine drinkers who think that there is only one style of Chardonnay and therefore that every bottle will taste similar, if not the same. In this article, we look to clear up any misunderstandings surrounding the grape and describe the full variety of styles of Chardonnay available.

Unoaked Chardonnay

Chardonnay is typically known for its fruity flavours and the degree to which these can be tasted depend very much on where the grapes are grown. In the cool climate of Chablis in France, you will come across a wine with green fruit, citrus and sometimes vegetal notes. It will typically have flinty, minerally characteristics, as a result of the vines having been grown in limestone soils. These are even more pronounced in Premier Cru or Grand Cru wines, which are considered as some of the most prestigious in the wine world. In warmer New World climates, the fruit taste will be much more tropical, with hints of peach, pineapple and mango. Coastal regions in South Africa and Chile, in particular, are the source of some very fine New World Chardonnays.

Oaked Chardonnay

As well as displaying the characteristics of the region in which the wine was grown, Chardonnay also takes well to techniques employed by the winemakers, such as oak treatment. Oaked Chardonnay made a name for itself in Australia around 20 years ago when winemakers started ageing the wine in oak barrels to give a fuller bodied wine. The underlying fruit is still very much present but this is enhanced by flavours of vanilla and butter. Oaked Chardonnay is still very much a feature of Australian wines today but unoaked versions have also become popular.

The Aussies aren’t the only ones who have combined oak treatment and Chardonnay. Other New World regions such as California produce some heavily oaked examples. This is not forgetting, of course, the Cote de Beaune region in Southern Burgundy in France, which produces some of the finest dry wines in the world. These typically display a variety of fruit flavours, along with woody, oak notes as a result of being fermented in oak barrels.

Chardonnay in Blends

If that wasn’t enough, Chardonnay is also often used in blends, leading to yet a different style of wine. You will generally come across Chardonnay blends at lower costs, as other, sometimes, cheaper grape varieties are mixed with the Chardonnay to help make it go further. Semillon -Chardonnay is a popular blend in Australia, while Colombard is often used in California and Chenin Blanc in South Africa. Viognier is also increasingly being paired with Chardonnay and provides an aromatic and peachy touch to the Chardonnay.

In summary, there’s a whole host of different styles of Chardonnay out there – everything from fruity to oaky, light to full bodied and delicate to rich. But the important thing to remember is that if you find a style that you don’t like, don’t rule Chardonnay out completely - you’d be denying yourself from a lot of good wine

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Louise Truswell works in the wine industry. She has been writing about wine for couple of years and is particularly interesting in helping enthusiasts enjoy wine, including grapes such as Chardonnay. ! To find out more and to choose from a wide range of Chardonnay, visit ,virginwines.com

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