Chardonnay is one of, if not THE, most famous white grape. It has become so well known that even couples are naming their babies after it. But why has it become so popular over the last decade and how can you get the most from it? Read on to find out more.
Types of Chardonnay
There are several distinct styles of Chardonnay – including oaked and unoaked. This often causes confusion amongst wine drinkers who don’t realise that both types taste completely different. In Chablis, in Northern Burgundy, the wines are mostly unoaked and are clean, crisp and minerally, whilst just down the road in the Cote de Beaune, still in Burgundy, the style is big, buttery, creamy, oaky wines. Both types of Chardonnay can command very high prices but are very different wines. Heavily oaked styles from across the water in Australia and America became a tour de force in the 1980s and flooded the market. They peaked in popularity after people became sick of rich buttery woody wine in favour of more austere styles like Sauvignon. New World makers today produce a variety of styles, ranging from lightly-oaked or non-oaked to rich fat oaky food wines.
A Grape of Many Uses
Chardonnay is probably the most versatile grape on the planet and this has helped lead to its popularity today. It can be moulded into a huge variety of styles and is an absolute gem for even the laziest of winemakers. Chardonnay doesn’t taste of much, being a “neutral” grape, but does what it’s told, so tastes of where it is grown and how it was treated. So whether you like your wine oaked, unoaked, full or light bodied, from the Old Word or New, you are certain to come across a Chardonnay that will be to your liking.
Look for the Value
Chardonnay has its roots in Burgundy and although you’ll come across some very fine tasting wines in this part of the world, you’ll find yourself paying for the label. If you’d rather buy something that tastes similar but without the price tag try looking to the New World, especially Chile, which produces mouth watering, fruity and clean Chardonnay. Alternatively, if you prefer a more tropical, fruity style, try South Africa and New Zealand.
Don’t Forget Champagne
Chardonnay is one of three grapes, along with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, which can be used to make Champagne. So if you fancy splashing out for a special occasion, stock up on bottle or two.
Great With Food
Chardonnay is a great wine to drink with food. If you are looking for something to team with your roast chicken, an oaked Chardonnay will work a treat. The body and oak in the wine is a good match for the creaminess of the chicken. Unoaked and lighter bodied Chardonnays always taste good with fish, chicken salad, or, simply, as an aperitif.
Find Out For Yourself
Chardonnay has received quite a lot of bad press in recent years. Wine drinkers who’ve become fed up with the grape have invented the phrase “Anything But Chardonnay”. But before you write off the grape, spare a moment to get to know it better. Chardonnay is one of the most versatile grapes around and makes everything from everyday drinking wine to some of the world’s most exclusive and prestigious whites.
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Louise Truswell works in and writes about the wine industry.For more details and to choose from a selection of Chardonnay, visit www.virginwines.com
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