Grape Varieties C-D Chardonnay

Chardonnay Wine

Chardonnay is the world's most famous white-wine grape and also one of the most widely planted. Although the most highly regarded expressions of the variety are those from Burgundy and California, many high-quality examples are made in Italy, Australia, New Zealand and parts of South America.

Describing the flavors of Chardonnay is not easy. While many Chardonnay wines have high aromatic complexity, this is usually due to winemaking techniques (particularly the use of oak) rather than the variety's intrinsic qualities. Malolactic fermentation gives distinctive buttery aromas. Fermentation and/or maturation in oak barrels contributes notes of vanilla, smoke and hints of sweet spices such as clove and cinnamon. Extended lees contact while in barrel imparts biscuity, doughy flavors. Because of this high level of winemaker involvement, Chardonnay has become known as the "winemaker's wine".

Chardonnay vines

The variety itself (although often said to be relatively flavor-neutral) is responsible for most of the fruity flavors found in Chardonnay wines. These range from the tropical (banana, melon, pineapple and guava) to stonefruits (peach, nectarine and apricot), citrus and apples.

Climate plays a major role in dictating which fruit flavors a Chardonnay will have. Broadly speaking, warm regions such as California, Chile and much of Australia tend to give more tropical styles. Temperate zones such as southern Burgundy or northern New Zealand create wines marked out by stonefruit notes. The very coolest Chardonnay vineyards (those in Chablis, Champagne and Germany) lean towards green-apple aromas.

Mineral descriptors such as chalk, wet stones and crushed seashells also find their way into Chardonnay tasting notes. These are sometimes attributed to the soils in the vineyard, although the relationship between soil and wine flavor has become widely exaggerated. The most famously minerally Chardonnay wines are those of Chablis, one of the very few wine regions to focus on a largely unoaked style of Chardonnay.

Although most famous for its still, dry wines, Chardonnay is used to produce an impressively diverse range of wine styles. The variety is put to use in sparkling wines all over the world (most famously Champagne), when it is usually paired with Pinot Noir. It can also be found in sweet botrytized and late-harvest wines; Canada even produces sweet Chardonnay ice wines.

Chardonnay is particularly popular with wine producers, not least because it has a reliable market of keen consumers. The variety produces relatively high yields, will grow in a broad spectrum of climates and can be made into wine of acceptable quality with relative ease. In poor vintages, deficiencies can be covered up with oak flavors, reducing the financial impact of a bad harvest.

In the vineyard, Chardonnay presents a few viticultural challenges, but none that can't be solved with age-old techniques or a little help from technology. (Were this not the case, the variety would certainly not be as successful as it is.) In very warm climates, Chardonnay grapes tend to lose their natural acidity, resulting in flat, overblown wines. This can be partially corrected with a simple addition of acid, or by harvesting early and compensating for lack of flavor by using oak and malolactic fermentation. Vignerons in cooler climates have a quite different problem with the variety, as the vines bud and flower early in the season, making them susceptible to spring frosts. Vignerons in Burgundy (particularly in Chablis) have traditionally mitigated this with braziers between the vine rows. These are not just for warmth – they also create frost-preventing air currents.

Synonyms include: Morillon, Pinot Chardonnay, Feiner Weisser Burgunder.

Food matches for Chardonnay include:

  • Butternut squash risotto (risotto alla zucca)
  • Japanese-style pork belly
  • Roast chicken with honey-sesame carrots
Production by region Expand/collapse

Most Popular Chardonnay Wine

Based on search frequency, updated monthly
Wine Name
Region
Popularity
Score
Avg Price
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut, Champagne, France Champagne Blanc de Blancs 25th 92 $177
Salon Cuvee 'S' Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut, Champagne, France Champagne Blanc de Blancs 58th 95 $831
Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune, France Le Montrachet 160th 95 $8,237
Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune, France Chevalier-Montrachet 210th 95 $945
Coche-Dury Meursault, Cote de Beaune, France Meursault 243rd 91 $649
Domaine Leflaive Les Pucelles, Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, France Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles 318th 94 $348
Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune, France Corton-Charlemagne 355th 96 $5,081
Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet, Cote de Beaune, France Puligny-Montrachet 373rd 90 $150
Domaine Ramonet Montrachet Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune, France Le Montrachet 387th 95 $2,956
Domaine Francois Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre, Chablis Premier Cru, France Chablis Montee de Tonnerre 430th 93 $332
Fratelli Lunelli Ferrari 'Giulio Ferrari' Riserva del Fondatore Metodo Classico Trento, Trentino, Italy Trento 432nd 90 $154
Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Brut Millesime, Champagne, France Champagne Blanc de Blancs 451st 93 $184
Joseph Drouhin Marquis de Laguiche Montrachet Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune, France Le Montrachet 466th 94 $707
Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires, Champagne, France Champagne Blanc de Blancs 524th 91 $178
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, Margaret River, Australia Margaret River 549th 94 $80
Domaine Francois Raveneau Les Clos, Chablis Grand Cru, France Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 593rd 95 $976
Domaine Leflaive Montrachet Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune, France Le Montrachet 637th 94 $10,685
Domaine Ramonet Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune, France Batard-Montrachet 648th 94 $754
Domaine des Comtes Lafon Charmes, Meursault Premier Cru, France Meursault Charmes 661st 93 $295
Coche-Dury Les Perrieres, Meursault Premier Cru, France Meursault Perrieres 696th 95 $2,662
Rene et Vincent Dauvissat-Camus La Forest, Chablis Premier Cru, France Chablis Forets 702nd 93 $116
Pierre Peters Cuvee Speciale 'Les Chetillons' Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut, Champagne, France Champagne Blanc de Blancs 710th 92 $161
Jacques Selosse Initial Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut, Champagne, France Champagne Blanc de Blancs 738th 92 $235
Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Brut, Champagne, France Champagne Blanc de Blancs 756th 91 $80
Jacques Selosse Substance Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut, Champagne, France Champagne Blanc de Blancs 787th 92 $408
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To see how Wine-Searcher uses average pricing and professional wine critic scores on this page, please see Average Wine Prices and Wine Scores. To find out about popularity, please see Wine Ranks.
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