The diversity of Chardonnay is quite impressive, no wonder it is one of the most popular grapes grown in the world. There is something for everyone whether you prefer a light and zesty white wine or a big buttery oaked Chardonnay, or even a classic sparkling wine.
Chardonnay is the perfect example of how important the wine making process is, the differences climate can make on the profile of your wine, and what a mighty difference it can make in the overall outcome.
The versatility of the profiles are examples of how climate and winemaking can create huge differences in the outcome of the wine.
Acidity: Medium low-medium high acidity levels. This depends on whether or not it was oaked and what climate it comes from. Cooler climates tend to have a higher acidity while warmer climates produce lower acidity wines.
Body: Oaked or unoaked, Chardonnay seems to be fuller-bodied regardless, although many unoaked Chardonnays can be classified as medium-bodied and the large majority of oaked Chardonnays are very full-bodied.
Warmer climates tend to produce Chardonnays that have more tree fruit flavours, while cooler climates tend to have more tropical fruit flavours. Common flavours include yellow apple, honeydew melon, pineapple, apricot, chalk, and lemon.
Added to the above list, oaked Chardonnay is host to a large number of delicious flavours from the barrel. Combined with the fruit-forward nature of the grape, it makes for quite a unique taste. Oak will add flavours of Creme Brulée, baking spices, vanilla, butter, butterscotch, and toasted bread. Because oaked Chardonnay also goes through malolactic fermentation, you will get that heavier, creamy mouthfeel and body that compliments the effects of the oak.
Why do some Chardonnays taste buttery?
Now for the big question: Why do some Chardonnays taste like you just liquefied a cinema tub of popcorn?
The buttery and creaminess of some Chardonnays are attributed to a winemaking process called malolactic fermentation. Essentially this is completed after the initial fermentation is complete. The point of the process is to take tart Malic acid and turn it into creamy Lactic acid. An unharmful bacteria allows this process to happen. While it is standard practice for all red wines to go through this process, only a couple of white wines are. Some of these include Chardonnay and Roussanne.
But why don’t red wines taste like butterballs? Because the effects of malolactic fermentation are a bit exaggerated when done to white wines. Because you don’t have the structure of the tannins, you tend to get a bolder mouthfeel, along with different flavours associated with oaking whites.
Regions where Chardonnay is grown
Being one of the most planted white grapes in the world, Chardonnay is grown in a large variety of regions and climates. It tends to do well in all sorts of growing conditions. That, along with its versatility in the winemaker’s hands, make this a really special grape.
Originating in Burgundy, France, the grape is now grown in Argentina, New Zealand, Spain, South Africa, Chile, Italy, Australia, the United States, and….well you get the idea.
Try them all! There is no such thing as getting bored with Chardonnay.