Around the world, Chardonnay is recognized as the most noble of white wines. Its grape is widely planted, capable of producing a broad range of wine styles and has almost universal appeal. So, what is Chardonnay and why is it so popular. For you, (prospective) Chardonnay lovers, I have collected all the facts about this grape, which you will find hereunder:
- Chardonnay is the most famous white wine grape in the world and they have planted the grape in virtually every country that produces wine.
- The grape has its origins in the French Burgundy and the best Chardonnay wines come from this region. The Chardonnay produces wines that vary from deep gold coloured with a strong oak taste to light sunny yellow ones with tropical aromas.
- Chardonnay vines take their name from a village in France near Macon and yield rather longish bunches with golden berries that are almost translucent when fully ripe.
- Some Chardonnays are grown in heavy soils, fermented and aged in oak barrels for an extended period. The resulting wines are big, full of vanilla, heavy with oak and long lived. You can read more about oaked Chardonnays here.
- Other grapes are grown in light gravely soils, fermented in stainless steel and aged only for a few weeks or months in older oak barrels. Unoaked Chardonnays are fresher, lighter, less complex with a fruit up-front finish. Read about this kind of Chardonnay here.
- Recent DNA research conducted at UC Davis, California concluded Chardonnay is the result of a cross between Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Gouais Blanc.
- It is very likely that the Romans planted Gouais Blanc on French soils in areas where Pinot Noir was planted as well.
- Chardonnay became the 5th most widely planted grape variety in the world with over 400,000 acres planted.
- The USA has the vastest area, 45,000 ha, of Chardonnay plantings, followed by France : 35,252 ha, Australia : 22,528 ha, Italy : 11,800 ha, South Africa : 7,927 ha, Chile : 7,561 ha, Argentina : 5,155 ha, New Zealand : 2,449 ha and Spain : 2,200 ha.
- From the end of the 20th century Chardonnay, in a very short period of time, grew to be a brand name, even to the point of having a Chardonnay frenzy, which hit its peak at the end of the eighties.
- Many more vineyards decided to plant Chardonnay leading to market saturation and subsequently the number of planted Chardonnay vines decreased and meanwhile the number of acres on which this popular grape is growing has stabilized. Read about Chardonnay’s “comeback” here.
- The Chardonnay grape is relatively easy to cultivate, the vines produce regularly and in relatively great quantities, as a consequence of which the fruits often hold a high sugar content, leading to a high alcohol content.
- So many countries, with so many climates, produce so many styles from so many wine-making techniques.
- It has almost single handedly changed the fortunes of many wine-growing regions and countries.
- The grape is growing best on soil with a high concentrations of chalk, clay and limestone, but it will perform well on virtually every type of soil, thus one of the reasons the grape gained mass popularity is its ease in adapting to and representing the area where it is grown.
- Chardonnay has been the greatest benefactor of the “New World” way of labelling wines by the grape varietal instead of the region.
- Chardonnay is also one of the few white wines that can be aged. While many white wines lose their flavour after two years in the bottle, Chardonnay can keep improving for five to eight years. Many winemakers carefully age Chardonnay in oak barrels, which gives the wine a pleasant vanilla taste.
- The lighter Chardonnays go very well with soft cheeses, whilst fuller bodied ones perfectly match the saltier and heartier cheeses.
- California is the region that produces the most varieties of Chardonnay wines in the world.
- In the USA Chardonnay white wine is the most popular wine.
- The Chardonnay grape is an important component of many sparkling wines around the world, including Champagne.
Regardless of techniques used, most Chardonnays age well, developing depth, complexity and interest in the bottle. Every fine restaurant offers an abundance of Chardonnay selections. Some cynics believe it became many country’s most popular white wine in the early eighties because it has a name that is easy to pronounce.
While there may be a grain of truth in that suggestion, a more plausible explanation is that Chardonnay is truly a great grape which produces pleasant, interesting wines and complements many styles and varieties of cuisine. I hope you are going to enjoy drinking this queen of the white wines! Please visit my summaries of some of the world best Chardonnays by clicking the images to the right under the heading World best Chardonnays.
I will go adding more info to this page as I will come across it during my extensive searches in news papers, books, magazines and of course the internet. Above all, I would like you, dear reader, to contribute your experiences to this page and indeed this site, so that it can become a unique platform for Chardonnay Fans!
Feel free to add any new data or ask any questions and I will come back to you within 24 hours.