Chardonnay is the world’s most popular and important grape for producing white wine, as well as Champagne, sparkling wine and dessert wine. Today, there are 34 different clones of Chardonnay. But where did Chardonnay come from? Recent DNA research conducted at UC Davis, California concluded Chardonnay is the result of a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc. Experts are not sure when the crossbreeding took place. It probably happened centuries ago. It is very likely that the Romans planted Gouais Blanc on French soils in areas where Pinot Noir was planted as well. From that point on, nature took its course. Chardonnay is the world’s most popular grape for white wine. In fact, Chardonnay is also the 5th most widely planted grape variety in the world.
Chardonnay is light green in color and gracefully adapts to a divergent array of terroir. While France is the grape’s spiritual home, especially in the Burgundy appellations, it also produces high quality wine in America, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Italy and numerous other countries. In America, it is grown in numerous states from coast to coast. Its greatest success is in northern California in the Sonoma Coast appellations followed by the Central Coastal regions. In Sonoma, Marcassin and Aubert are currently the two benchmark producers of the variety. Several other winemakers are producing Chardonnay that are almost at the same level of quality. In Burgundy, there are too many great producers to list. The best White Burgundy comes from the Montrachet and Corton-Charlemagne appellations.
While Chardonnay can produce quality fruit in a variety of terroirs, soils and climates, the best expression for Chardonnay grapes comes from soils with high concentrations of chalk, clay and limestone. All three of those soil types dominate the best terroir of Burgundy.
Chardonnay is an easy wine for wine and food pairings. Because Chardonnnay comes in a wide variety of styles, with different textures, levels of sweetness and acidity, there is an equally diverese array of wine and food pairings that work with Chardonnay. All types of seafood from shell fish, to grilled fish is the perfect palce to start. Seafood simply cooked, braised or buttered, sushi, sashimi are all great with Chardonnay. The richness of Chardonay copes well with lobster, crab and other fatty fishes. Chicken, veal, pork are all good pairings with Chardonnay. Hard and soft cheeses are perfect with Chardonnay wine as well.
Many tasters agree, Chardonnay produces the finest wines when planted in the best Burgundy soil. However, just as many people no longer buy the wines, due to a problem that became apparent after the 1995 vintage. “Premox,” short for pre oxygenated Burgundy has ruined millions of bottles of white Burgundy wine. The exact source of the problem has not been pinpointed. Experts and wine lovers do not agree Answers range from low sulphur dioxide levels, corks, high yields, over production to batonnage, a stirring of the lees. While other causes are mentioned as well, problems with corks is cited more often than not. Regardless of the cause, fear of bottles going bad has damaged the reputation of the wines.
Chardonnay is an easy fruit to cultivate. It adapts and ripens in a myriad of different terroirs. One of the reasons the grape gained mass popularity is its ease in reflecting the area where it is grown. Choices made by grower and winemaker easily exert their influence as well, which allows for a wide variety of stylistic differences with the varietal. These choices range from when to pick, the level of sugar in the fruit, the length of time and temperature used during fermentation, malolactic fermentation and how much oak was used, (if any) to age the wine. These are only a few of the choices a winemaker needs to make.
In 2013, Clos Dubreuil became the first chateau to produce a 100% Chardonnay wine in Bordeaux. The wine is being sold as a Vin de France, because the grape is not allowed to be planted in Bordeaux by AOC law.
This wide range of choices allows for countless styles of wine produced from Chardonnay ranging from flavors of green apples, pears, smoke, citrus, rocky and mineral driven, steely or tropical honeyed fruit in nature.
Chardonnay is the most popular white wine from California. The grape produces a myriad of different wine styles that range from austere and steely, to fat, rich and buttery to mineral driven wines that compete with many of the best white Burgundy wines. The best Chardonnay in California comes from Sonoma, mostly in the Russian River area. Some of the top producers from that appellation include Marcassin, Kistler, Aubert, Rochioli, Peter Michael and Ramey. Chardonnay is also enjoying great success in the Central Coast and Santa Barbara appellations. Brewer Clifton, Mellville, Bonaccorsi and Au Bon Climat are a few of the better estates making Chardonnay in the Central Coast of California.