Wine Profile: Chardonnay

Chardonnay wine and grapes, (c) Wine Folly.

I can tell the weather is finally warming up when my wine-drinking habits shift from predominantly red to predominantly white, and my white wine of choice is the horrendously unfashionable (and yet still popular) Chardonnay.

Chardonnay is one of the Noble Grapes, and is the main ingredient in white Burgundy (yes, there is such a thing). Unlike the temperamental Pinot Noir of red Burgundy, however, Chardonnay is an easygoing character which grows with relative ease and has a mild and inoffensive flavour. This mildness means that it is one of the few white varietals which is regularly oaked, and it’s possibly the influence of those tannins which makes Chardonnay so appealing to me.

Chardonnay is a white wine, with a colour which varies from pale yellow (unoaked) to gold or copper bronze (oaked). Oaking also has an influence on the flavour and acidity of Chardonnay, with unoaked Chardonnays often lighter and zestier while oaked Chardonnays are richer and oilier. Both oaked and unoaked Chardonnays are dry wines rather than sweet.

Chardonnay is usually medium-bodied with a medium level of acidity, although this varies according to the climate in which the grapes are grown, and has a typical ABV of around 13% to 14.5%. Among others, it has flavours of apple, pear, citrus and pineapple, as well as beeswax, honeysuckle, almond and shortbread.

Chardonnay should be served cold, at around 11C to 15C. It pairs well with creamy dishes and soft cheeses as well as fresh Spring vegetables (which my garden is producing in abundance at the moment), white meats and flaky fish.

A medium-priced bottle of Chardonnay can be aged for up to two years, while a fine bottle could last ten or more, although if you’re planning on aging wine it is wise to check the vintage first and take that into account when calculating your storage time.

chardonnay on vine
Chardonnay grapes on the vine.

Always drink responsibly. One standard drink of wine is approximately 100ml (3.3 fl oz). The New Zealand Ministry of Health recommends that women consume no more than 2 standard drinks a day, and no more than 10 standard drinks a week, and that men consume no more than 3 standard drinks a day and no more than 15 standard drinks a week (note that this is slightly lower than the limits recommended by the World Health Organisation). The World Health Organisation recommends that women abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. In New Zealand the legal drinking age is 18. Do not drink alcohol if you are under the legal age to do so in your country. It is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol.


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