The most common and versatile of the white wine grapes, Chardonnay is widely planted around the world and can be made in many different styles. The wines can be classified as:
1.Crisp, fresh unoaked Chardonnay with flavours of apples, peach and lemon.
2. Fruity, mildly-oaked Chardonnay with flavours of melon and butter.
3.Full-body, oaked Chardonnays with flavours of butter, vanilla and pineapple.The oaky flavour in the wine comes from barrel ageing or use of oak chips during winemaking.
Most Chardonnays have medium acidity and medium fruit intensity. However, the body of the wine greatly depends on the wine-making style and can vary between medium to full-body.
Chardonnay is a very adaptable grape variety and is grown across all wine regions. But the most famous Chardonnays are from France, USA, Chile and Australia.
The cool climates of Chablis in France and Tasmania in Australia result in fresh and crisp Chardonnays while warmer climates of South Australia and Chile make mildly-oaky Chardonnays.
Most American Chardonnays used to be made in the super oaky full-bodied style but in the recent past it has changed and winemakers have come out with some great Chardonnays across all styles.
Because of the French laws, the white Burgundy and the Blanc de Blanc champagnes are also made from 100% Chardonnays though you may not see the grape variety written on any of them.
We will get to the French labels later but if you see a French white wine with names such as Bourgogne Blanc, Chablis, Montrachet, Meursault, it is a Chardonnay.
The new world labels are fairly simple and will always have the grape variety on the label so a ‘Chardonnay’ is easy to recognise.
Chardonnay is a food wine. Of course, it can be enjoyed without the food, too, but depending on its flavour profile, it can go with many types of food. The key to understanding food and wine pairing is rather simple. It’s either complementary (light, crispy wine with lemon chicken) or contrast (fresh, crispy wine with a creamy risotto).
Here I am listing some food pairings that may suit most palates. There is a vegetarian dish, a non-vegetarian dish, a cheese pairing and my favourite – a fast-food pairing!
1. Pumpkin soup or Pumpkin ravioli. The earthiness of the pumpkin pairs well with the oaky as well as non oaky chardonnay.
2. Grilled chicken with lemon and herbs. A classic dish for a classic wine. The body and flavours of the food complement the flavours of Chardonnay.
3. Goat cheese. Chardonnay pairs well with other soft cheeses, too.
4. Fish fingers or Paneer pakodas. Non oaky or lightly oaked chardonnays are crisp and refreshing and pair well with fried food.