Chardonnay Grape Variety
Chardonnay takes its name from a village in the Mâconnais, but has expanded widely from its Burgundian roots and is now planted around the world. The Chardonnay grape can produce quality white wines in a wide range of climates, though the style can vary considerably.
Cool climates such as Chablis and Champagne, give very steely wines, medium to light in body with high acidity and apple or green plum fruit notes. More favourable sites and slightly warmer regions result in more citrus-flavoured wines.
In hotter regions the fruit character tends towards melon and peach and even exotic flavours such as banana, mango and fig. Chardonnay from very hot regions can be very full-bodied, high in alcohol and low in acidity.
The fruit character of Chardonnay is rarely pronounced and could be described as non-aromatic. Consequently, it is the vineyard character and wine-making techniques that contribute much to the flavour of a Chardonnay wine. It is common to use malolactic fermentation, which softens the fruit and acidity and gives flavours of butter and hazelnut. Chardonnay also takes well to oak and many are fermented and/or aged in French or American oak to impart some tannin and rich, toasty, nutty characters to the wine.
Classic Chardonnay regions of production include: Burgundy, Champagne, California, Australia and New Zealand, although high quality Chardonnay wines are made in many other regions too.