Photo Credit: Gabriel Worden
With BBQ’s dusted off and ready to grill, sitting on a sunny patio with a glass of chilled Chardonnay in hand is the perfect beginning to the unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day weekend.
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Chardonnay is the best-selling wine in America, red or white. Americans consume over 840,000 bottles per year. This much-loved white wine is the ultimate shapeshifter depending on where it’s grown and how it’s made – ranging from crisp and dry in some regions to oaky and buttery in others. It's just a matter of tasting a few to find out which are most appealing to your palate or paired with your meal.
Chardonnay-the grape, the place, the mystery...
Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape variety used in the production of white wine. It originated in the Burgundy wine region of eastern France, but is now grown wherever wine is produced across the globe. Chardonnay is the world's most planted white wine grape. It is made in a wide range of styles from lean, sparkling Blanc de Blancs, to rich, creamy white wines aged in oak. Truthfully, no other variety yields as diverse a spectrum of wines as do Chardonnay grapes.
Indeed, there is small town called Chardonnay in the southern most wine region of Burgundy France (the Mâconnais) from which the grape takes its name. Only 176 very lucky residents can boast Chardonnay, France as their address. It takes its name from the French word for the thistle plant — chardon.
While France may lay claim as the grape's ancestral home, California harvests nearly as much Chardonnay grape as the French, dedicating over 100,000 acres to the variety. Chardonnay can be found in most every corner of California's wine-growing regions.
How is one grape transformed into so many flavors? Chardonnay is perhaps the wine world's most chameleonic grape variety. Its versatility derives from its relatively low varietal character. It's basically a blank canvas and is very transparent to the decisions of its winemaker.
Chardonnay is said to be “made in the winery,” as the choices made from the yeast strains, to fermentation methods, to how and when to stir the wine as it ages, all lead to diverse and delicious tasting notes that differ immensely from one winery to the next..
Tasting Notes & Food Pairings
Unoaked Chardonnays are zippy and similar to Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, but without “green” flavors. Depending on how ripe the grapes get, the flavor ranges from citrus and green apple to overripe peach and canned pineapple. The lean, no oak style of Chardonnay is great with raw seafood like oysters or sushi, or with sautéed fish, pâté, Chicken Piccata, vegetable risotto, or moules frites! The crispness, minerality, and delicate flavors balance crisp, delicate foods.
Oaked Chardonnays are rich, full-bodied and often have additional oak-aged flavors of vanilla, baking spices, or butter. Flavors range from tropical (think pineapple or mango) in warm climate regions, to leaner, green apple and citrus in cooler climates. These bolder Chardonnay wines call for crab cakes, clam linguini, halibut, or even pork tenderloin with apples. For vegetarians, lean towards rich or starchy vegetables like corn, pumpkin, or squash. Also, mushrooms are a must!
Four Fun Facts to Impress your Friends
- Chardonnay achieved its reputation for greatness in the Burgundy region of France over 1200 years ago. Genetic studies have concluded Chardonnay to be a cross between Pinot and Gouais Blanc, two of the most ancient grape varieties.
- Legend has it that around 800 A.D. the wife of Emperor Charlemagne, disgusted by the red wine that stained her husband’s white beard, ordered that white grape vines be planted in their Burgundy vineyard, which is now called Corton-Charlemagne.
- The Burgundy region may be the most well-known habitat of Chardonnay; however, France boasts two great homes for the grape. The other is the Champagne provence, where Chardonnay contributes a critical role to the blend of the world's celebratory beverage of choice. Champagnes made of 100% Chardonnay are prized and labeled “Blanc de Blancs.”
- Chardonnay is also commonly used in many sparkling wines all around the world: in the sparkling wines from California to England, in many Crémants in France, in Franciacorta in Italy, and even in Cava in Spain. (As far as sparkling wines are concerned, only the Prosecco wines from Italy never use any Chardonnay!)
VomFASS Madison welcomes you to come in and peruse our wine selections, as well as our premium spirits, oils, and vinegars. We have tastings available daily. Our talented staff is happy to provide gift giving ideas and product tastings.
Our artisanal products make great hostess gifts, wedding presents, and party favors. Our hand-labeled bottles can be personalized just for you!
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