Chardonnay is the most popular, best selling grape variety in the United States. Chardonnay is also the most planted grape variety around the world and much of that has to do with its ability to grow almost anywhere, in a large spectrum of climates.
The climate plays a primary role in dictating the fruit flavors a Chard may have. Warm regions like Chile, California, and most of Australia tend to produce more tropical styles. Temperate regions like southern Burgundy, or even northern New Zealand produce wines marked by stone fruit notes. The coolest Chardonnay vineyards such as those in Chablis, Germany and Champagne have a green apple aroma.
What I love about Chardonnay is you can have the same grape in the glass, but because of the differences in wine making, completely different flavored wines. Some Chardonnays are aged in oak barrels, others never see oak at all. Oak can create wines that are big on flavors of vanilla, smoke, coconut, hints of sweet spices like cinnamon and clove, and wood. Prolonged lees contact while in the barrel imparts a biscuity, doughy flavor. An unoaked Chard would be more varietally pure and crisp, with flavors of green apple or exotic fruits.
Chardonnays that have undergone a secondary fermentation called malolactic fermentation (MLF) with show a creamy texture and buttery notes. Often mistaken for resulting from oak aging, that buttery quality can appear in both oaked and unoaked Chardonnays, depending on if the winemaker chose to employ MLF with that particular wine.
Pairing food with Chardonnay can be a delightful experience. My favorite foods to pair with Chard is anything buttery or with cream sauces. Think shrimp scampi, fettuccine Alfredo, white cheddar mac and cheese, shellfish of all sorts such as lobster, crab, clams, and mussels, and my personal casual favorite, buttered popcorn! Chardonnay pairs well with egg dishes at brunch, such as quiche and frittata. Also a brunch offering, banana bread or muffins bring out a tropical banana note in the wine. Shrimp or scallops wrapped in bacon is heavenly with a Chard, as well. Chardonnay can be an outstanding food wine, and the fun is in the experimenting! Cheers!
About the Author
CSW, WSET3, FWS, BWSEd | Executive VP of Sales and Aquisitions at VINOvations
Missa holds various positions in the wine industry, each of which brings her incredible fulfillment. She is the EVP of Sales and Acquisitions at VINOvations in Sharon, MA. She also teaches students of all levels of experience and interest in wine classes, lifestyle experiences, and leads wine dinners all around Massachusetts.
She is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) with the Society of Wine Educators, a certified French Wine Scholar (FWS), certified with the Wine and Spirits Trust, Level 3 Advanced (WSET), and a certified educator with Boston Wine School (BWSEd). Her unique combination of talent allows her to translate the nuances of wine for the everyday wine drinker in an accessible and fun way. Demystifying wine and removing the intimidation is her passion when sharing wine with others.