The true leader of the grape pack that produces the most famous white wines and is one of the most planted varieties in the world. What viticulturists consider to be the ‘chameleon’ of wine, Chardonnay grapes can adapt to just about anything from the widest range of climates and soil types. It is so resilient that it thrives in even the most unpromising of situations. Chardonnay is simply one of the toughest of grapes out there – talk about a varietal you would want on your dodgeball team.
All parties involved (viticulturists, winemakers, etc) love to work with this grape varietal because by comparison to some of the other usual suspects, *cough* pinot noir *cough*, Chardonnay is pretty darn reliable in the vineyard. It works well with a vast spectrum of soils –whether it be limestone, clay, granite, shale, loam, gravel…you get the idea. And within the climate scale, Chardonnay is also an excellent team player from the chilly climate of Champagne to the warm and sunny Napa Valley.
What’s even more remarkable about Chardonnay is that under the right conditions and careful handling, both in the vineyard and winery, the wine can be incredibly expressive of its terroir. It can present the zippy acidity and chalky mineral characters of Chablis, the rich full body and tropical notes of Australia’s Margaret River, and basically everything and anything in between. You name a place, Chardonnay has probably been there. It has even become an integral part of China’s blossoming wine production!
Different Chardonnay expressions from different wine regions:
- Champagne – light, acidic and neutral for its use in Champagne production
- Chablis – light, zippy and flinty with notes of citrus
- Burgundy – crisp and refreshing with notes of stone fruit, nuts and limestone minerality
- Napa Valley – rich, round, ripe stone fruit, tropical fruit and often a buttery character
- Sonoma County – bright and crisp with ripe citrus, green apple and minerality
- Australia – ranging from full body and tropical fruit to medium body and crisp green apple
- Chile – in cooler regions expresses ripe apple, tropical fruit and often toasted elements from oak
- South Africa – ranges from medium body and bright stone fruit to full body and rich tropical fruit