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Chardonnay

Full-bodied Chardonnay white wines make the ideal accompaniment to food. Its acidity makes it ideal for pairing with fish, light meats or terrines. It is also this very acidity that gives it an excellent ageing potential for a white wine. This noble grape is one of the best and most popular white varieties. Dry expressions are especially favoured.
Chardonnay white wines make the ideal accompaniment to food.

Cultivation and character of Chardonnay grapes

Winemakers appreciate Chardonnay’s naturally high extract and sugar levels. As it is a highly adaptable grape variety, Chardonnay thrives on virtually all soils and in different climatic conditions – producing a myriad of styles depending on soil type, climate and vinification technique. It typically produces concentrated wines with a high alcohol content. In warm regions it is golden coloured with aromas of caramel and tropical fruits, while in cooler climes it is a shimmering lime green suffused with honey-yellow light reflections. Taste-wise it is noted for its apple aromas and lively acidity. Harvesting time is crucial for the development of a Chardonnay’s character, as overripe grapes will cause it to lose acidity and become flabby.

Diversity of Chardonnay flavours

As Chardonnay reflects local variations well, it produces wines with a high degree of originality, providing a wide range to choose from. Depending on terroir, Chardonnay expressions range all the way from light and dry to muscular and sweet. The character of Chablis appellations is quite unmistakable, for example. These are well-balanced, full-flavoured wines that are perfect for pairing with a wide range of food. An especially light and youthful Chardonnay makes a wonderful accompaniment for fish and seafood dishes. More brawny and oaky styles are good with roasts and also cheese.

Diversity of Chardonnay flavours

As Chardonnay reflects local variations well, it produces wines with a high degree of originality, providing a wide range to choose from. Depending on terroir, Chardonnay expressions range all the way from light and dry to muscular and sweet. The character of Chablis appellations is quite unmistakable, for example. These are well-balanced, full-flavoured wines that are perfect for pairing with a wide range of food. An especially light and youthful Chardonnay makes a wonderful accompaniment for fish and seafood dishes. More brawny and oaky styles are good with roasts and also cheese.The versatility of the Chardonnay grape is also manifest in the numerous vinification techniques used. Unlike most white wines, Chardonnay grapes can also be aged in oak barriques. Older barriques exhibit notes of roasted nuts. Fresh and fruity examples are used to make sparkling wine. Chardonnay is usually vinified as a single varietal, but it is also used to create appealing blends. It is popularly blended with Sémillon.

Typical characteristics of Chardonnay

See table

Colour

Unoaked
Green-tinged golden-yellow
Barrel-aged
Deep yellow
Mature
Deep golden yellow

Nose

Unoaked
Fresh and buttery, citrus fruits and green apples
Barrel-aged
Aromas of toast and vanilla
Mature
Biscuit and mineral notes, butter, toffee

Taste

Unoaked
Citrus aromas reminiscent of green apples and nuts
Barrel-aged
Rounder and fuller
Mature
Top notes of vanilla, toast and charred wood
Chardonnay thrives on virtually all soils.

Most important Chardonnay winegrowing regions

This grape variety has its origins in the Near East. It initially found its way to Burgundy via the Romans. Benedictine and Cistercian monks then took Chardonnay all over Europe during the Middle Ages. With the rise in Chardonnay’s fortunes, Burgundy emerged as one of the world’s foremost winegrowing regions. This grape is still the basis for some of the most expensive white wines in the world.
More and more winegrowing regions are now competing with Burgundy. Its high quality and versatility when it comes to climate, terroir and vinification make Chardonnay a highly sought-after global grape variety. The following countries all produce notable expressions.

France – undisputed world champion of Chardonnay wines

In France, Chardonnay is the second most popular white grape. The regions of Burgundy, Languedoc-Roussillon and Champagne grow it in very large quantities. Top of the quality league are Chablis and Côte d’Or with their Grand Cru vineyards. These exclusive wines acquired their excellent reputation thanks to a complex bouquet that only develops after several years of ageing. Chablis, Meursault, Montrachet, Pouilly-Fuissé and Corton-Charlemagne are some of the most famous names. The mollusc-rich limestone soil of the Paris Basin imparts the unique flinty iodine aroma characteristic of Chablis wines. In the Champagne region, as well as producing the most elegant Blanc de Blancs varietal, Chardonnay is also blended with Pinot Meunier and Pinot noir to make champagne.

USA – up-and-coming Chardonnay country

Burgundy’s most serious competitor is not in France, but in the USA. Around 45,000 hectares are planted with Chardonnay grapes in California, making it the country’s biggest growing region. For many years buttery, highly oaked Chardonnays with a high alcohol content were produced in Napa Valley. Today the trend is for lighter, more elegant styles that reflect the character of the grape. There are also further major wineries on the west coast in Oregon and in Washington.

Italian Chardonnays

Italian winegrowers have planted 12,000 hectares of Chardonnay grapes, including terroirs in the regions of Trentino, Apulia, Lombardy, Sicily and Friuli. Blends with other grapes such as Albana or Catarratto bianco comune are popular in Italy.

Swiss terroirs

Swiss Chardonnay production is concentrated mainly in the cantons of Valais, Vaud and Ticino. Valais styles tend to be dry and are often aged in barriques. Early harvesting imparts fresh aromas. The producers of sparkling wine in the canton also benefit from Chardonnay plantings. Many different expressions are produced in Ticino. Thanks to its warm climate, Chardonnays made in Ticino tend to be softer. The wide variety of soils there results in a myriad of aromas.

Austrian Chardonnays

Styria and Burgenland are the main regions where Chardonnay is grown in Austria. Particularly in Styria (where the grapes are known as Morillon), winegrowers limit yields in order to ensure the quality of their extract-rich and mouth-filling wine.

Chardonnay production in Germany

Chardonnay wine is increasingly being produced in Germany, especially in Baden, the Palatinate and in Rheinhessen. Dry styles are most common. Top-quality wines are made at the Kaiserstuhl in Baden and along the Palatinate’s Southern Wine Route in particular. Browse our range to discover the world’s Chardonnays at Mondovino.