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Guide to White Wine Grape Varieties & Types

Wine Guide

The Chardonnay
Wine Grape:

White Wine Grape Royalty

Chardonnay Wine Grape

C hardonnay is unquestionably one of the finest - if not the finest - white wine grape in the world. That being said, not every Chardonnay is 'great' and there are sadly a number of bland or poorly made versions out there, but the best Chardonnays are truly sublime. Chardonnay is both outstanding in the production of still wines, and is also the basis of many fine Champagnes and other sparkling wines around the world.

The History of Chardonnay

Chardonnay has a long and storied history in the Burgundy region of France, although it's unclear if it may have originated even further back in an area such as the Balkans. Chardonnay vines show some similarity to the Pinot family of grapes and recent DNA studies have shown that Chardonnay was created through a hybrid of Pinot and a lesser known grape.

Qualities of the Chardonnay Grape

Green-skinned and delicate, with skins that bruise or tear easily, Chardonnay vineyards are generally low-producing. When planted under the best conditions, this grape can have attractive fruit flavors, but when grown with less care it tends to be neutral and bland. Generally, cooler climates are more favorable for preserving these fruit characteristics and maintaining a balance of nice acidity.

Chardonnay Wine Characteristics

Body: full
Acidity: light to medium
Flavors: fruitier styles will show green apple and pear notes, while richer styles will display more notes of butter, cream, toast or vanilla

Regions Where Chardonnay is Grown

- In France, the most significant plantings are in Burgundy and Champagne with minor plantings in Languedoc, Alsace and the Loire Valley
- Throughout California in the U.S., including Napa Valley, Sonoma County and Mendocino County, as well as in Washington and New York states
- Australia's New South Wales region
- New Zealand's east coast

Chardonnay Fast Facts

- Bottled by regional name in France (Burgundy, Champagne, others)
- Bottled by varietal name in the U.S. and other New World countries

- Famous Producers: Joseph Drouhin, Bouchard Père & Fils, Chateau Montelena Winery, Kistler
- Generally best drunk young for its vibrant fruity character, although some more exceptional wines can be aged 10 years or more

Chardonnay Wine & Food Pairing

- Pairs excellently with creamy cheeses and sauces, crab and chicken- Easy Food and Wine pairings with Zinfandel:
     Crab Cakes with Fresh Herbs & Spicy Aioli
      Chicken Breast with Mediterranean Stuffing
      Lobster Macaroni & Cheese

Here are some of our favorites:

  2006 Estancia Chardonnay, Pinnacles Ranch
Fresh and zesty, with a little touch of cream on the finish. Not overly complex, but very tasty. ($10.99)

2006 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay
Bright and vibrant, with green apple and pear flavors, and the hint of a spicy touch of oak. ($40)

2007 Sonoma Cutrer, Russian River Ranches
Classic and minerally, this is an ode to Burgundy, married with bright California fruit flavors. ($23)

 2007 Joseph Drouhin, Mâcon-Villages
Creamy and delicate at the same time, with mouthwatering pear and apple flavors. ($10)

Next Variety:  Chenin Blanc Wine Grape




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