Chardonnay Aromas and Characteristics

From crisp, mouthwatering, and mineral Chardonnays to rich and oaky versions, the world’s most popular white wines are made from this grape variety.

Whether it’s a buttery Napa Valley Chardonnay, an aged and complex Burgundy, or one of the thousands of exceptional examples around the world, this grape can perform in a variety of capacities.  It is both versatile and impressively adaptable thanks to its ability to express the winemaker’s flavour as well as the land’s characteristics. Whether you prefer velvety or crisp flavours, you can almost certainly find a Chardonnay that suits your preferences.

The fruit flavours in Chardonnay are frequently described as being reminiscent of melons and autumn orchard fruits like apples and pears, as well as chalk. A subtle brininess and hints of chalk are common in Chardonnay grown in more calcium-rich soil.

Chardonnay grown in warmer climates tend to possess more tropical fruit flavours,such as pineapple, papaya, mango, and guava. Oak-influenced Chardonnays are characterisedby cinnamon, clove, and vanilla flavors, and buttery hints may be detected if the wine has gone through malolactic fermentation.  

What Regions Produce The Best Chardonnay Wines?

France’s Burgundy region is iconic for Chardonnay ( It is the most widely planted white grape in Burgundy…the other being Aligoté). The grape has been produced in the region for centuries, but many agree that the best hail from the Côte de Beaune in the southern part of the Côte d’Or.

Vignobles cotes de nuits-fr

The finest Chardonnays in Burgundy are said to be made in Montrachet, Corton-Charlemagne, and other grand cru vineyards. Chablis is the Burgundy region’s main producer of chalky chardonnays with long life spans. Chablis, in addition to being a great value, also has acidity and minerality that is hard to find in other Burgundy regions. The wines of the Côte Chalonnaise and throughout the Mâconnais in southern Burgundy are particularly impressive.

A bottle of Chablis

Photo by Brett Jordan.

Chardonnay in Sparkling Wine

For sparkling wine in Champagne…the region only permits three grape varietals to be used; Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. As the only white grape in the trio, should a Champagne be labeled as ” blanc de blanc” (translated to “white of whites”) …this is a clue that the bottle was produced with 100% Chardonnay grapes. 

Champagne Sparkling Wine being poured

Meanwhile…in California…

In Napa and Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, Chardonnay tends to be richer and creamier than the Chardonnay from France for a few reasons. The warmer climate in California alongside the use of malolactic fermentation and oak tend to create bigger and fuller Chardonnay wines.

It’s important to note that winemakers in Burgundy do use malolactic fermentation in their Chardonnays (  the wine would be far too acidic without) and oak…but these methods are used on a larger scale in California. A good way to think of how these regions produce different chardonnays is to think of California as producing bigger, more buttery and fuller Chards, whereas France goes for complex, subtle and more elegant type styles.

At the end of the day, which one is better…is completely up to you and your palate.

Chardonnay Food Pairing

If you want to enhance the subtleness of Chardonnay, don’t serve it alongside foods with strong flavours. Instead, serve mild, gentle foods that are not too spicy, not too pungent, and not too acidic. It’s also possible to create fantastic chardonnay dinner pairings by serving foods that complement the rich, mild essence of the wine. Some great options would be lobster, creamy pastas, simple poultry dishes ( roasted or grilled). My personal favorite…. popcorn!

Popcorn and Chardonnay Pairing

Pro Tip: The saltiness of a buttery, movie theater popcorn is a spectacular pairing with a rich Chardonnay. Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

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