Chardonnay grape is the most popular type of white wine grape, found all over the world. The flavour, taste, and aroma of it will vary though, depending on where it was made and what processing methods were used.
Chardonnay has a variety of different styles and flavours, and remains a major type of grape. As a result of it’s popularity, this fine varietal spread throughout Europe and other locations of the world such as Australia and California.
As more and more wine makers discovered this varietal, it was discovered that it could grow quite well in South Africa and other areas as well. With it being a non aroma type wine, oak seems to work very well with it.
The richest and most complex are American and French Chardonnay, which are also among the most preferred white wines. Even though it does suffer from fatigue, the flavour and richness of this wine will keep it loved by many for years to come.
Chardonnay originated from the Burgundy and Champagne area of France. Although white Burgundy is also made with Aligote, a lesser known grape, the fact remains that white Burgundy is always best made with the Chardonnay grape.
Chablis is one of the best examples. Many people get confused and think Chablis is a grape rather than a region and are often shocked to learn that it is made with 100% Chardonnay.
In appearance, Chardonnay grapes are green in color with thin skins. The grape is a result of the Pinot and Croatian Blanc grape, which are extinct to this day.
This fantastic grape is often fermented and aged using oak barrels that help to bring out the vanilla flavour the wine is well known for. It can also be aged and fermented using bottles, although it won’t age quite as much as red wine.
Almost all Chardonnay wines are considered to be best served lightly chilled, making them work extremely well with dishes that contain butter and cheeses. The wines also have less acid content as well, which makes them work well with seafood as well. If you over chill the wine you will lose lots of it’s flavour and then just get refreshment.
There are loads of food that you can pair this style with, which is what makes it so popular. A lot of fine restaurants serve it as well, especially Italian and seafood restaurants.
This grape is one of the main varietals in making Champagne and other types of sparkling wines. There are actually 6 permitted grapes that can be used in the making of Champagne and they can be single or blended to produce this majestic sparkling wine.
Oak is often times used with the wine as well, which provides it with some great flavours as it ages. Although it can be a bit on the expensive side, it still remains one of the most preferred types of wine.
Forget the over oaked Chardonnay’s that were available everywhere in the 80’s and 90’s. These wines were created as oak is often used to mask impurities in a wine when it should be used to add flavour to a wine.
This meant there was a huge amount of really poor quality wine being exported from places like Australia where they threw oak at poor quality wines in a desperate attempt to disguise it. The results were massive hangovers for anyone unlucky enough to have drank a bottle.
Modern winemaking techniques have removed many of these issues but with the drive to produce cheaper and cheaper wines still very prevalent this this practise is coming back.
You are better off with a wine that has been naturally oaked in an oak cask rather than having oak chips, oak staves or oak flavouring added! Oak casks that are 250ltr are regarded as the best. Different countries produce different oak casks and the flavours that come from that oak cask will also vary.
Using chips or staves means that the wines are often imbalanced and the flavours are all over the place and generally you just get oak and nothing else.
So don’t write off Chardonnay just because it’s not in fashion anymore. This fantastic grape is making a comeback and is now being rediscovered and loved again.
Some of my favourite examples are the Berton Vineyards Eden Valley Reserve Chardonnay and the Berton Vineyards Foundstone Unoaked Chardonnay. These two wines will showcase how the same grape from the same grower can taste completely different. Oak is used in the Eden Valley example but in the Foundstone the wine is left “naked” and as nature intended.
So try a mix of some of these fantastic wines and fall in love with Chardonnay once again.