Chardonnay is the world's most popular white wine grape.
The name of the grape comes from a village in the South of Burgundy.
In a joint study published in 1999, American and French scientists said DNA research had proved that the Chardonnay vine was a cross between two others: Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc.
Quality Chardonnay wines always have a round character, a great length, and a rich after-taste.
But, Chardonnay is a fairly neutral grape with a limited (not very aromatic) taste. The grape produces neutral wines that need to be filled with flavors to become interesting.
This can be done in several ways. The most common way is to ferment or store at least a portion of the wine in new oak barrels.
Chardonnay also easily absorbs the taste of the soil (terroir), and this is consciously used to complement Chardonnay's taste profile in Europe.
Chardonnay performs in a multitude of styles all over the world from totally uninteresting, strong alcoholic wines with artificial fruit aromas to the world's most sublime, perfect balanced wines.
In cool climates, Chardonnay can have a light body with noticeable acidity and flavors of citrus, green apple, and pear.
In warmer locations the flavors are more yellow apple, peach, melon, and tropical fruit such as pinapple and mango.
Chablis in France is best known for producing excellent, fresh, and light wines with appealing apple and citrus aromas, while Californian editions are best known for power, heavy oak, and tropical aromas, however, they are simply two expressions of the same grape.
People who like Californian Chardonnay with low acid and high alcohol, may say that a young Chablis is too acidic, and some people may say that they don't like the taste of Chardonnay, because they don't like the taste of oak.
Many of the Chardonnay flavors come from terroir (soil) and climate.
But Chardonnay is a typical Winemaker's grape. Often, it is more a product of the wine cellar than of the vineyard.
In the hands of a good winemaker, Chardonnay can transform like a Chameleon, and real magic can happen during the Vinification.
The two most common vinification methods that affect the result of a Chardonnay wine are malolactic fermentation and oak influence.
Malolactic Fermentation (MLF) softens the acidity and produces a creamy (buttery) texture with flavors of butter and hazelnut.
Steel tank aging (non MLF) can be used to produce a light and mineral Chardonnay, like the famous French Chablis.
Barrel Fermentation, storage, and aging will cause the wine to absorb taste from the wood, like vanilla, caramel, spices, smoke and toast flavors.
Chardonnay originates from Burgundy in France. Most famous on the light and dry site is Chablis. More floral, mild and round, but still on the light side are the editions of Mâcon and Saint-Véran, while Mersault and Montrachet are most closely identified with full bodied Chardonnays.
Italian Chardonnays are typically leaner and crisper. Unoaked Chardonnay can be found in Friuli, Trentino and Alto Adige.
Chardonnays from Austria are typically fresh and mineral driven.
USA is the largest wine market in the world, and Chardonnay is the number one selling wine. The best known Chardonnays comes from Northern California (Sonoma, Napa, Russian River).
Australia used to make heavy, oaky and powerful Chardonnays, often with traces of residual sugar. But the trend is rapidly changing and the new versions are less oaked, and better balanced, meeting the approval of a larger market.
The cool Andes regions produce a mineral-heavy and vegetative Chardonnay.
Chilean Chardonnay is cool climate Chardonnay with apple, pear, and tropical fruit flavors. Limari Valley is said to be a perfect region for growing Chardonnay. The soil and climate here tend to produce old world acidity, minerality, and earthiness, combined with new world fruit (the best of both worlds).
New Zealand Chardonnays get first prize for French imitations. They often holds good quality, with an elegant balance of citrus, minerals, and tropical fruit.