Chardonnay has incredible versatility and can be picked over quite a wide range of sugar levels and flavour ripeness.

The variety takes its name from the village of Chardonnay near Uchizy in the Mâconnais, in southern Burgundy. A region gaining in reputation for the production of delicious Chardonnay. Thought to have originated from Sâone-et-Loire between Lyon and Dijon.

Where is it grown?

Burgundy is the mythical home of Chardonnay. From there it spreads far and wide across the world. One of the three main varieties of Champagne production, we also see massive plantings in Australia and North America. You’ll find it somewhere in pretty much every wine growing country.
In Australia 340,000 tonnes of Chardonnay grapes are harvested each year over four times more than the No.2 white grape in Australia, Sauvignon Blanc!

What does it taste like?

There are a vast array of flavours, aromas, and, textures that Chardonnay can offer from the fruit alone, add in use of solid, fermentation vessels like oak, eggs, and tanks, and, malolactic fermentation, the sky is the limit.

Chardonnay has incredible versatility and can be picked over quite a wide range of sugar levels and flavour ripeness. The same vineyard can be picked with enough sugar to make a wine of 10-11% alcohol for sparkling production and then 14% for table wine with anything in between possible. Picked earlier it tends to have more citrus and green apple characters. Picked ripper the natural acidity drops and the flavours progress through stone fruit, to pineapple, fig and melon.

The hand of the winemaker has been particularly evident in Australia over the last 20 years. Starting with big, broad, alcoholic full malo styles in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the pendulum swung to the lean, acid driven styles in Australia in the mid-00’s, with some down right mean wines produced in the cooler climates like the Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills, Mornington, and, Tasmania.  Currently, styles have found balance with generosity and elegance. Australian Chardonnay is the best it has ever been. Restrained oak use is thankfully the norm, and, globally we are seeing greater use of larger oak barrels, reducing the influence of any new oak.

Use of wild fermentation, malolactic fermentation and grape solids in ferments can add an array of secondary aromas and flavours, nuttiness, creaminess, bakery notes, butteriness, funk.

Some makers have played heavily with reduction in Chardonnay often resulting in flinty, burnt match characters.

In Burgundy, climate change, just as in Australia (along with mature vineyards) has seen picking times bought forward with sugar levels maintaining. The degree of chaptalisation in Burgundy is reducing and is often not required at all.

Check out all the articles in the Wine Bites Mag exploring Chardonnay.

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