The most prolific and most famous white wine varietal in the world is Chardonnay. Chardonnay is incredibly adaptable and can boast many different expressions. From cool climate green-apple, to warm climate tropical fruit, to oak influenced butter, nuts and spice – Chardonnay is a true chameleon. General dialogs like this regarding Chardonnay are just that – general. The broad sweeping brush strokes that one can make with other grape varietals i.e. Cabernet tends to have black cherry notes, just do not apply to the ubiquitous and multifaceted Chardonnay grape.
Chardonnay was first made famous in its home of Burgundy, France. Within the geographic parameters of Burgundy one finds quality levels ranging from basic Bourgogne Blanc upwards through village level, to Premier (1er) Cru and finishing with the penultimate Grand Cru status.
Burgundy can be largely divided into geographic sub-appellations. From North to South: Chablis, Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune, Cote Chalonnaise, Maconnais and the southern terminus of Beaujolais. Some of the most famous Chardonnays in the world come out of the Cote de Beaune and wear names like: Corton, Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault, and Volnay.
While Burgundy is the birthplace of Chardonnay; France has not cornered the market on repute, quality or diversity of offerings. The heralded 1976 Judgment of Paris drove this point home. At this event, the Napa Valley Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena won top spot in one of the world’s most famous blind tastings. The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay was made by Mike Grgich, a Yugoslav emigrant to the United States who later co-founded Grgich Hills. For an interesting perspective on this storied event, check out the film Bottle Shock.
To explore this piece of wine history, look for:
Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, Napa Valley
Grgish Hills Estate, Chardonnay, Napa Vallery
The global landscape of Chardonnay can be overwhelming. From Australia and New Zealand, to Canada and Germany and just about everywhere in between – if you are in a wine producing part of the world, you will find Chardonnay thriving. With a multitude of wine producing regions, and even more winemakers, there is no paucity of experience to be had. In the Old World, producers tend to be more hands off. You will generally find a less manipulative style of winemaking and the juice in your glass will speak a bit more of place. In the post Industrial Revolution New World, producers often like to inform their wines to a greater extent. These wines can be bigger and bolder. The hand of the wine maker and the use of oak can be more expressive. If you want a racy, mouthwatering, mineral driven Chardonnay – you can look to France and Italy. If you want a voluptuous, buttery, fruit forward and oak driven style – you can look to California or Australia.
On occasion we hear, “I don’t like Chardonnay”. To those naysayers, we would posit that you just haven’t had the “right” Chardonnay. Shop for different types of chardonnay wine that will appeal to your palate at our wine and spirits store!