The following scenario is a very typical and common one: you sit down somewhere in a cafe, bar or restaurant and fancy a glass of white wine. You ask for white wine by the glass. I bet you that 99 times out of a 100 you will get the question as to which white wine, either Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. This is not very surprising, because the Chardonnay and the Sauvignon Blanc are two of the very famous (if not the most famous) white grape varieties in the world. The wines made from these grapes are among the most drunk and poured dry white wines.
You often hear that people are either a Chardonnay or a Sauvignon drinker when it comes to white wine. And yes, you should just know what the difference is between these two and where you feel that your taste fits in.
So, read on and find out the difference between Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Chardonnay versus Sauvignon Blanc
Chardonnay has its origins in the Burgundy region in France. Although Chardonnay is now planted all-over-the-world and very good wines are made in many places, some of the most appealing and distinctive variants still come from Burgundy. Just only look at Chablis, Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet wines from this area.
The wines made from the Chardonnay grape are dry, full and round, and have primary fruit flavours of apple, yellow melon, pineapple and star fruit. Chardonnay is often aged in oak barrels, the taste of which often is creamy and hints of vanilla and butter can also be identified. Nowadays Chardonnays are mostly lightly oaked and a good deal of unoaked is on the market.
In combination with food a Chardonnay fits very well with creamy and delicate flavours such as fish and chicken, possibly with some fuller, rich sauces.
Sauvignon Blanc finds its origins in the Bordeaux region and is well known from the Loire and is not meant for oaking. Meanwhile, this grape variety is also planted all over the world and there are good wines made from among them in Chile and New Zealand. However, the more refined Sauvignon Blancs still come from the Loire, amongst others the renowned appellations of Pouilly Fumé, Sancerre and (somewhat less known) Menetou Salon.
The wines from the Sauvignon Blanc grape are dry and light and are often called “dusting” by the glass from the bursting flavour that can be described as ‘green’. Aromas that can be recognized in these wines are: gooseberry, grapefruit, white peach, passion fruit, green apple and even freshly cut grass and boxwood (or buxus).
Eh yes, “freshly cut grass” and “boxwood”. That may sound crazy and dirty to find in a wine and generally few people have actually tasted these things, however, it is quite clear that these aromas can be recognized in the wines of Sauvignon Blanc. Wine tasting is mainly done with your nose and who will deny that they did not enjoy the delicious aroma of a freshly mowed lawn or a cut boxwood hedge in the spring or summer? If not, just rub a leaf or blade between your fingers and smell. Maybe you can just immediately associate with a nice Sauvignon Blanc that you have ever tasted.
Combined with food a delicious Sauvignon Blanc goes well with goat cheese (separately or in a salad or other dish), lighter fish dishes (with not too creamy sauces), seafood, salads and white meat.
So what will be the one for you?
Although in wines of the same grape variety, different flavour styles can be characterized (especially for the Old versus New world=within or outside Europe), the distinction between wines from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc can generally and briefly be summarized as follows:
Do you want a fuller, rounder, tastier and riper wine, then take a lightly oaked Chardonnay, especially New World countries such as USA (California), Australia, New Zealand and S-Africa. And also, if you’re looking for something lean, fresh and vibrant, you will want unoaked Chardonnay. It’s here that the grape’s true characteristics are at the forefront and you’re often left with a refreshing, mouth-watering white wine.
Do you feel you want to have a fresher, tighter, slightly drier wine, take a Sauvignon Blanc, especially the ones from France and New Zealand. A Sauvignon Blanc often has a higher acidity than Chardonnay. If, however, a sweeter, fuller and rounder Sauvignon Blanc is to your liking, you should instead look to wines made in the United States and Australia, where the warm climate creates stronger flavours of peach, kiwi and even passion fruit.
The difference between these two grape varieties is so large that there are supporters and opponents for both. This also explains why in typical restaurants and pubs you will be presented with both options . The one Chardonnay is not the other and like Sauvignon Blanc these grapes grow in every climate and in every soil type, each time having different results.
In short, you must either have an extensive knowledge of wine or you take sound advice in order to buy the bottle that comes closest to your liking. It is also not exactly necessary to put yourself in this square: Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, but taste something different. You could try each one of the following great white wines and see if you like them: Gewurtztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc or Viognier. See my detailed description here.
Anyway, as you might have guessed, I am a Chardonnay lover and have become so after drinking various white wines in the course of some 30 years. A Chardonnay, to me, is more tasty than any Sauvignon Blanc I ever drank. It is my experience that I can find a Chardonnay to pair with almost every meal, cheese or state of mind for that matter. The variety is virtually endless and there is a taste for everyone. It is just a matter of finding the taste that suits you best.
This site would like to help you to find your taste amongst and gain access to the world’s best Chardonnays from 8 countries and divided in product reviews and ratings by markets: USA, UK and Australia. The summary of these reviews and ratings can be found by clicking on the three images to the right (for mobile users just under this text) under the heading World best Chardonnays for delivery to the USA, UK or Australia.
Anyway, please let me know through the comment box if I can be of any assistance to you and I will reply within 24 hours.