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Chardonnay is a green grape variety used to make white wine and sparkling wines, like Champagne.

Chardonnay is one of the best known and the most widespread of all grape varieties. It is originally French, taking its name from a village in Burgundy, France.

French Chardonnay often won’t say ‘Chardonnay’ on the bottle. Instead, it will have the specific place where it’s made; for example, Chablis is a wine made from Chardonnay.

Wine made in the New World (Australia, South America, USA etc.) made from Chardonnay grapes will often be labelled Chardonnay.

Kumeu Village Chardonnay wine

What does Chardonnay taste like?

Chardonnay is not an aromatic grape variety – in other words, when you smell a Chardonnay wine, you won’t be able to smell much.

Chardonnay wines tend to be full-bodied with a creamy texture. The best Chardonnays (made in Burgundy, France) age well and can develop complex wines with nutty, savory and honey-like flavors.

Chardonnay is an unusual grape variety in that it can be grown in different climates, from cool to hot. The climate that it is grown in greatly affects the style of the wine as do the winemaking techniques.

As such, there is no typical flavor to Chardonnay overall, but there are typical flavors associated with, for example, a cool climate Chardonnay.

Typical Chardonnay flavors by climate

Cool climate – green fruit (apples, gooseberry, pears), citrus (lemon, lime, grapefruit) and occasionally vegetable notes (cucumber)

Moderate climate – white stone fruits (apricot, peach, nectarine), melon and citrus (lemon, lime)

Hot climate – tropical fruit (banana, fig, passionfruit, pineapple, mango)

Winemaking techniques for Chardonnay

Many of the flavors associated with Chardonnay come from the winemaking techniques rather than from the grape variety itself.

Malolactic fermentation is sometimes used in Chardonnay production to soften harsh acids.

The lees (dead yeast cells left in the wine after fermentation) are stirred through the wine, which adds a creamy texture and savory flavors.

Some Chardonnay wines are aged in oak. Ageing wine in oak adds toast, vanilla and coconut flavors to the wine.

What color is Chardonnay wine?

Chardonnay is a white wine grape but the color is also affected by the climate where it is grown.

Chardonnay grown in cool climates is often pale and an almost green color.

Grown in moderate climates Chardonnay is often a lemon color, and Chardonnay grown in hot climates is often a gold color.

Is Champagne made from Chardonnay?

Champagne is made with a blend of Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay grapes.


Read with confidence: I am a certified wine expert (WSET L3).