Chardonnay’s evolution in Australia has followed a classic learning curve. The great white grape of Burgundy and Champagne was virtually unknown here until the 1970s. Now it is the nation’s most-planted white variety, accounting for half of all white wine produced.In the 1980s, Australian Chardonnay became known for its bold flavors and creamy texture. This style of Chardonnay was popular with wine drinkers at the time, and many Australian wineries focused on producing wines that were full-bodied and oaky.
Chardonnay is the world’s most popular white wine, and for good reason. It’s made from green-skinned grapes that adapt to a variety of climates, and they produce versatile wines in many price points. Chardonnay can be crisp and clean, or rich and oaky. There’s something for everyone, which is why Chardonnay is so beloved.Chardonnays from cool-climate areas tend to be dry, with citrus, green fruit, and vegetal notes. Bottles from warmer regions are richer and can taste like everything from white peach and melon to tropical fruits and fig.Viticultural practices are similarly varied. Aging in oak is common, and can impart toasty, vanilla flavors.
The wide world of Chardonnay spans crisp blanc de blancs, racy Burgundies, and balanced Californians. Whether you’re a lifelong devotee or self-professed ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) drinker, the varietal is too versatile to ignore. Here’s VinePair’s guide to the global flavors of Chardonnay.
France - The world’s most revered Chardonnays come from Burgundy, Here, Chardonnays go by many names because they’re labeled by geography, not by grape.Chablis, for example, gets its moniker from its home base in the cool northwest of the region. Complex, dry Chablis wines have lots of acid, citrus, green fruit, and smoke. Central Burgundy’s Côte d’Or has a more moderate climate, and Chardonnays are fuller-bodied wines are usually labeled by village (Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet) and often aged in small oak barrels on lees.The southernmost area in Burgundy for Chardonnay is the sunny Mâconnais. Its wines are light and fruity, and tend not to be aged in oak. Chardonnay also grows in Champagne, in the northeast of the country. Here, winemakers blend it with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier to make the area’s titular bubbles.
USA - Most Chardonnays in the United States hail from Northern California, specifically Sonoma, Napa, Russian River, and Carneros. Styles vary, from full-bodied butterballs with ripe tropical fruit flavors, to more recent releases of lean, Côte d’Or-style Chardonnays with savory, herbal notes.
Chile - Chardonnays from Chile include remarkably affordable premium wines as well as everyday sippers for $13 and less. Chilean Chardonnays often have melon and banana notes similar to many Californian versions, plus acidity from the wine regions’ cool Pacific breezes. Many Chilean Chardonnays are aged in oak, giving them toasty flavors and creamy finishes.
Argentina - Many Americans associate Mendoza with Malbec, but Argentina’s high-elevation wine region also produces rich Chardonnays with tropical fruit and citrus flavors. The cooler climate provides balanced acidity, and many winemakers age their Chardonnays in oak, giving them spicy notes.
Australia - Historically, Australian Chardonnays were known for big, fruity, and creamy flavors, thanks to ample oak aging and sunny vineyard sites.many Australian winemakers started producing quality Chardonnays in cooler-climate regions like Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills, and Mornington Peninsula, as well as the moderate Margaret River. These regions are now “beacons of consistency” for crisp, balanced, Chablis-style Chardonnays
New Zealand - Winemakers from Nelson and Hawke’s Bay in the north, to Marlborough and Central Otago in the south, are also making diverse styles of Chardonnay. In the northern regions, lots of sunlight and warmer temperatures mean fruity, fuller-bodied wines. Cooler temperatures in Marlborough produce leaner, more acidic wines.