Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape variety, an important component of many sparkling wines around the world, including Champagne. Popularized in the 1980s, this neutral grape originated in France but now grows around the world. Here are eight things you might not know about Chardonnay.
Many theories have been proposed on the origin of Chardonnay. Reknown viticulturalists Maynard Amerine and Harold Olmo believe that Chardonnay is a descendant of the wild Vitis vinifera vine but some vineyard owners in Lebanon and Syria trace the grape’s ancestry to the Middle East. Others claim that Chardonnay is the descendant of an ancient, indigenous vine found in Cyprus. Modern DNA fingerprinting research at University of California, Davis, however, suggests that Chardonnay is the result of a cross between the Pinot noir and Gouais blanc grape varieties.
Chardonnay originated in the Burgundy wine region of eastern France, but is now grown in wine regions around the world, from Argentina to New Zealand, thanks to its adaptability, and is vinified in a variety of styles. In cool climates, Chardonnay wine tends to be medium to light bodied with noticeable acidity and notes of green plum, apple, and pear. Warm climate Chardonnay wines offer notes of citrus, peach, and melon. Expect notes of fig and tropical fruit in Chardonnay wines from very warm climates.
Chardonnay is known for its ability to adapt to different conditions and stands as one of the most widely planted grape varieties, with 520,000 acres planted worldwide.
Chardonnay remains one of the dominant grapes in Burgundy, France’s premier wine region, and is grown in eight grand cru vineyards, including the “Montrachets”-Montrachet, Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, and Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, as well as Charlemagne, Corton-Charlemagne, and Le Musigny.
Chardonnay is the only permitted AOC grape variety in the Chablis region and was believed to be first planted in Chablis by the Cistercians at Pontigny Abbey in the 12th century. The simplistic style of winemaking favored in this region emphasizes the terroir of the calcareous soil and cooler climate that makes for high acidity.
Chardonnay is also found in the Languedoc region, where it was first planted around the town of Limoux, where it transformed into the sparkling Blanquette de Limoux. In the region of Jura, you’ll find it transformed into sweet Vin de Paille dessert wines.
Chardonnay is most commonly paired with roast chicken or turkey. Heavily oak-influenced Chardonnays pair well with smoked fish, spicy southeast Asian cuisine, garlic, and guacamole