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What Is Chardonnay Wine?

A complete guide to the basics of what you need to know about Chardonnay White Wines

Chardonnay wines are complex, versatile wines with varying flavors and characteristics. It’s not uncommon to see a bottle of sparkling chardonnay next to unoaked and oaked chardonnay varietals, which can lead to the questions, “What is chardonnay wine?” and “What does chardonnay taste like?”

This comprehensive guide offers insight into commonly asked questions about chardonnay wines, from flavor notes to varieties available.

So What Is Chardonnay?

Chardonnay is a variety of white wines that comes from chardonnay grapes. Initially, chardonnay was grown and made in Burgundy, France. Now, this green wine grape type is grown worldwide.

Chardonnay has a neutral flavor that adapts to the characteristics of the terroir in which it grows. Additionally, its flavor changes depending on the method of winemaking. 

Because of this, chardonnay flavors can vary greatly. It’s an excellent wine for wine drinkers, as you can likely find a variety that suits your taste preferences.

Where Does Chardonnay Wine Come From?

Chardonnay comes from Burgundy in east-central France. It’s named after a small town in the region, which has been producing Chardonnay since about the 12th century. This town is known for crafting delicious, high-quality wines at lower prices. 

Many people consider the wines from Burgundy the best in the world. The flavor of chardonnay even varies within the Burgundy region, with northern areas centering around more acidic notes.

Is Chardonnay Sweet Or Dry?

Chardonnay is considered a dry wine. However, sweetness in wines is not a cut-and-dry definition. Chardonnay offers a subtle sweetness from the included fruit and the oak barrels, in which some varieties are aged. 

For example, some types may have green apple, lemon zest, or tropical fruit flavors embodied in each glass. These flavors can all be considered “sweet,” even though the residual sugar in chardonnay is lower than in dessert wine or sweet white wine like Riesling.

Chardonnay Taste – What Is It Supposed To Taste Like?

Chardonnay’s neutral flavor leans toward fruity notes, such as apples and pears. As mentioned, the climate location and winemaking process highly affect the flavor of chardonnay. 

For example, some regions push chardonnay toward a chalky taste while others offer a flavor similar to baked apples. Some chardonnay types are created with a malolactic fermentation process which adds a buttery taste.

Oaked Vs. Unoaked Chardonnay – Any Difference In Taste?

There is a big difference in flavor between oaked and unoaked chardonnay!

Oaked chardonnay is aged in an oak barrel, whereas unoaked chardonnay is not. When chardonnay sits in a barrel, it takes on flavors from the oak wood. This often equates to wine with a rich, smooth taste.

Many oaked wines take on flavor notes such as vanilla and caramel, and in comparison, unoaked chardonnay options are fresh, vibrant, and fruity.

Warm Climate Chardonnay Vs. Cold Climate Chardonnay – Any Difference In Taste?

As mentioned, where the chardonnay grapes are grown massively impacts the flavors present in wine. In warmer climates, the weather does not vary as drastically, so wine grapes can have plenty of time to ripen. However, this usually leads to less acidity. 

For example, California chardonnay typically leans toward tropical fruit notes with a decadent, ripe fruit taste. Cooler climate chardonnay is generally crisp, refreshing, and acidic. Cool climate chardonnay has typically a chalky minerality and citrus flavors.

Wine Clubs – A Great Way To Sip Chardonnay Wine!

Chardonnay newbies and connoisseurs can benefit from wine clubs. These subscription services allow you to learn more about the available varieties while tasting them in the comfort of your home.

Certain clubs are geared toward those trying chardonnay for the first time by providing flavor profiles, pairing suggestions, and backgrounds on the delivered bottles. Other wine clubs cater to knowledgeable drinkers who want to try small-batch, organic, or higher-quality options which aren’t offered in stores.

Read more about the top Chardonnay wine clubs in this review.

How Many Calories Are In Chardonnay?

A typical serving of chardonnay is 5 oz. This amount of wine has 123 calories, which is on the lower end of calories for wine. In comparison, sweet wines, like Moscato, have around 160 calories per glass. Chardonnay is an excellent option for those who want to indulge in a glass of wine but are conscientious of calorie intake.

Chardonnay Vs. Sauvignon Blanc

Both wine varieties are on the drier side. However, in a side-by-side comparison, sauvignon blanc has a higher residual sugar content making it slightly sweeter. Sauvignon blanc is also lighter and brighter. Chardonnay is richer in flavor and more full-bodied. Like chardonnay, white sauvignon is a fantastic choice for food pairings as it’s versatile.

Chardonnay Vs. Pinot Grigio

These two wines bare many differences beginning with the color of the grape each comes from. While chardonnay is made with green grapes, pinot grigio is created from bluish-gray grapes.

The differences also extend to their flavors, with chardonnay being slightly sweeter. Pinot Grigio, on the other hand, has a dry, smooth, and more acidic taste. The flavor of each also depends on different factors. Pinot Grigio has different notes depending on where it is grown, while chardonnay’s taste relies on the terrior and climate.

Best Food Pairings To Chardonnay

Chardonnay’s flavor ranges make it an excellent option for pairing with various foods. The type of chardonnay you select will differ depending on the food you plan to pair it with. For example, Chardonnay, which falls on the acidic side, is best with seafood. However, chardonnay which has a richer flavor is an ideal pairing with cheese.

Examples of foods That Work With Chardonnay Primary Flavors:

  • Pork tenderloin (or most cuts of pork)
  • Seafood and fish
  • Cheese boards/charcuterie boards
  • Aged goat cheeses
  • Savory polenta dishes
  • Chicken-centric dishes
  • Meals with citrus flavors (such as chicken piccata or lemony pasta)
  • Traditional and more exotic baking spices (i.e., sumac, turmeric, black sesame, etc.)

Final Notes

Chardonnay is one of the best white wine options since it pairs well with many cuisines and spices. It’s also an excellent option to drink by itself year-round. With the many options for tasting notes, from tropical fruit flavors to rich oaky caramel and vanilla, chardonnay is a wine everyone can enjoy.

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