Originating from the Burgundy region of France, where it even has a village of the same name, Chardonnay has spread across the world and is grown in all wine-making regions from England to New Zealand. The world’s largest plantings can be found in the USA, France and Australia.
Chardonnay is a green skinned grape vine turning yellow and gold on ripeness producing a wide range of wines with pale yellow through golden coloured wines depending on the location and winemaking techniques used. Despite being an early budding variety, with the associated risk of damage from late frosts, it is an easy to grow, flexible, adaptive and reasonably high yielding grape variety, with its wine character reflecting the local climate and geology of its vineyard.
The majority of Burgundy white wine produced is based on the Chardonnay grape in the French regional style of promoting the region over and above the grape variety. It is also one of the three main grape varieties used in the production of Champagne.
Chardonnay wines also lend themselves well to secondary or malolactic fermentation, which gives the wines a buttery, full and soft taste. Similarly, oak barrel maturation is commonly used to provide additional complexity. This latter practice has more recently earned Chardonnay a bad reputation where excessive oak has been used and has masked the taste of the fruit. The trend back towards better fruit and reduced use of oak will re-establish its justified popularity.
Due to its versatility, Chardonnay is suitable for making good easy drinking light wine as well as a good pairing for cheese and rich white meat dishes such as chicken, turkey and pork. Savoury food with a hint of sweetness, eg saucy spare ribs or Chinese style food are also good with Chardonnays.