Chardonnay, the white grape of Burgundy, is the most planted white grape in the world. With its oaked and unoaked varieties there really is something for everybody.
What type of wine is Chardonnay?
Chardonnay is a dry white wine grown almost everywhere that wine is produced.It is also often blended with other grapes such as Pinot Noir (in Champagne and other sparkling wines), and occasionally with Semillon and Chenin Blanc.
Chardonnay is almost two different wines: oak-aged Chardonnay offers a creamy and rich taste while un-oaked Chardonnay provides a lean and dry, mineral-rich flavour.
Chardonnay is believed to have been introduced into France by the Romans and created as a result of a cross between the grape varietals of Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc.
In the late 1970’s and 1980’s the USA market fell in love with Chardonnay and the Californian production of big buttery oak driven wines. This was partly driven by an historic tasting that took place in Paris, France in 1976 where a range of Californian and French wines were blind tasted by a group of France’s preeminent wine judges led by English Wine Merchant Steven Spurrier. The result for the white wines showed the Californian Chardonnay Chateau Montelena was judged as being a better quality wine than its french counterparts. This extraordinary outcome was labeled the Judgement of Paris and was the turning point for when Californian wines were seen as world class wines.
New Zealand Chardonnay is now the third most planted variety in New Zealand. It was first planted at the Te Kauwhata Viticultural Research Station in 1951 by viticulturist Denis Kasza.
Chardonnay was found to produce very good concentrated white wine, Chardonnay grapes were eventually planted widely, one of the early adoptees was Mate Brajkovich of San Marino Wines, now run by his sons and renamed Kumeu River Wines.
Chardonnay is now widely planted in all New Zealand grape growing areas with the biggest plantings in Marlborough, Hawkes Bay, Gisborne, Nelson and Auckland, although every wine region is producing Chardonnay wine.
What does Chardonnay wine taste like?
Chardonnay is a still dry white wine that we would describe as non-aromatic. This is because in its wine making process the flavours and aromas are often added to and modified by the winemaker.
In New Zealand we have a range of growing conditions which affect the flavour of the wine.
In the cooler regions of Central Otago, Canterbury and even parts of Marlborough, the wines will be lean, crisp medium bodied with aromas and flavours of green plum, apple, pear and citrus.
"The overriding component in good Chardonnay is the desire to have another glass."
In the warmer Marlborough, Nelson and Wairarapa regions, look for aromas and flavours of citrus, white peach, nectarine and melon.
Hawkes Bay and Gisborne as well as northern Auckland will have pink Grapefruit, yellow peach, melon and sometimes fig.
Very hot regions of the world where Chardonnay is grown will have aromas of fig, tropical fruits, banana and mango.