All you should know about a Chardonnay wine
Chardonnay is known as the “queen of the white grapes”. It is one of the most widespread grape varieties in the world and among the white grape varieties the most famous worldwide for its wines. Their adaptability to different climates, the versatility in the elaboration of different styles of wine, as well as the ability to express their origin in the glass, have favored their diffusion and interest in them all over the world.
Why is the Chardonay grape so popular?
Its popularity is based on two very clear French influences: On the one hand, on the long and recognized history in Burgundian wines, as the principal grape in various regions such as Chablis and Macconais, and as an important component of some wines from other areas (Côte Chalonnaise, Côte de Beaume and Côte de Nuits), from which some of the most famous and valuable white wines in the world come. On the other hand, the Chardonnay grape is the only white grape that is approved for the production of champagne together with Pinot Noir and Pinot Menuier. Chardonnay is also the only grape that is used for the popular “Blanc de Blancs” champagne.
The popularity of these two French regions and their wines influenced the spread of this grape variety worldwide from its French origins to today’s globalization and led to an unlimited variety of wines, which are very popular not only with wine lovers but also with less experienced consumers.
Origin-history of the Chardonnay grape
There are various theories about the origin of this grape. At first it was called a descendant of the Pinot Noir or Pinot Blanc grape by some French winemakers due to its ampelographic similarities. Other French winemakers stated that their origins could be from white muscatel and, in parallel, winemakers from Lebanon and Syria defended their Middle Eastern origins and their introduction to France at the time of the Crusades. Regarding these theories, the legend says hat the Count of Champagne Theobald IV, on his return from the Crusades in Palestine in the 13th century, made a stopover in Cyprus, where he found an exceptional white grape that captivated him from the first moment. On the way home to his county, he passed through Burgundy, leaving sediments or deposits of the grape in the regions that made the Chardonnay grape famous.
Modern genetic tests carried out by Dr. Carole Meredith of the University of California together with European universities have shown that the Chardonnay grape is the result of a spontaneous crossing of the Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc varieties in France. At that time, these two varieties were planted closely to each other, resulting in crosses that showed hybrid force and good production characteristics, resulting in new successful grape varieties (Aligote, Gamay, Peurion …), including Chardonnay.
Characteristics of the grape and what does a Chardonnay wine taste like?
The Chardonnay vines have small compact grapes with a recognizable characteristic shape. The berries are curved with a lot of juice and a thick skin. The colour during the ripening is greenish yellow.
This grape is characterized by its versatility. It is suitable for the production of different types of wine: from sparkling wines to calm and fruity wines and wines with a Crianza and pronounced body. The spectrum of aromas that the Chardonnay grape can express is very broad, depending on the production method and the climate.
The typical main aromas of this grape range from citrus fruits, white fruits and minerals to stone fruits and tropical aromas. These flavours vary depending on the climate and the harvest time. For this reason, the wines from cold climates or with less ripeness are fresher and have a less pronounced body with citrus aromas and white fruits such as apple, pear and also a mineral character emerge. Wines from warm climates or with more ripening of the grapes are more opulent and have a lower acidity, which emphasizes the aromas of ripe peach, sweet pineapple and melon.
Since the Chardonnay grape is suitable for the production of Crianza wines, there are also often notes of secondary aromas that arise due to the alcoholic and malolactic fermentation, as also the contact with the yeasts, such as baking, lactic acid and banana aromas. However, if the aging is carried out in oak barrels, we find the characteristic tertiary aromas such as notes of coconut, vanilla and spices depending on the origin of the oak wood (French or American).
The youngest Chardonnay wines are characterized by a light yellow colour with green tones. The wines intended for aging, the Crianza, gradually lose this colour towards intense golden tones.
The aging of a Chardonnay wine
The storage of this type of wine depends on the method of elaboration and the chemical properties that the climate confers, such as alcohol content, acidity and pH-level. Above all, the balance of these parameters is of crucial importance for the longevity. Young, fruity Chardonnays without Crianza have a shorter lifespan, 1 to 5 years. With this chemical balance in mind, wines from cold climates generally have a higher acidity and lower pH value, which means they have a longer life. In warm climates, they usually have less acidity and a higher pH, so their lifespan is shorter.
If, on the other hand, the wine has matured in barrels or on lees, the lifespan of these wines can be longer, as these processes stabilize the wine, facilitates the aging under good conditions and the development of its aromas in an optimal way. The wines can be stored between 5 and 15 years, provided the storage is in good conditions.
What drinking temperature should a Chardonnay have?
The serving temperature of Chardonnay wines also depends on the style of the wine. A temperature between 9 and 10 ° C is therefore considered appropriate for young fruity wines in order to enjoy their fruit aromas, to weaken the alcohol notes and to enjoy the acidity. Matured wines require a higher temperature, between 11 and 12 ° C, as they have a higher, more aromatic complexity due to their contact with the wood and the yeast. The variety of aromas is released more pleasantly at these temperatures.
The right accompaniment for a Chardonnay?
Due to the versatility of the wines that are made from this grape, we can find a suitable Chardonnay for every situation. Fresh young Chardonnays without barrel aging with more citrus aromas, which are typical of a cold climate, are perfect for aperitifs or starters with fresh cheese, seafood and white fish. Chardonnay wines with more body and tropical notes, which are more typical of warm regions, suit better with blue fish, white meat and aged cheeses. Full-bodied and voluminous Chardonnays with Crianza are a pleasant accompaniment to red meat, pasta with a high-fat sauce and even wild birds.