Chardonnay is the chameleon grape; it grows in almost every wine producing country in the world and its character changes according to the local soil, climate and wine culture. It is the perfect all rounder varying from rather neutral, mass produced wines to the pinnacle of greatness in the Grands Crus of Bourgogne. Its fruity character is a natural canvas for the winemaker: ferment it at cool temperatures in stainless steel or cement and the wine is light, fruity, fresh with good acidity and minerality. Ferment the wine in oak barrels and stir the lees and the grape releases a rich, buttery character with tropical fruits and great depth. It loves the interaction with yeasts as is most evident in Champagne where it is the most important grape in the famous champagnes of the region and in sparkling wines throughout the world.
The Chardonnay grape has inspired many clones such as the Dijon, Davis or Mendoza clones that are used frequently in the new world and often have exotic fruit flavours of pineapple, mango and passion fruit. Cool climate chardonnay is known for its orchard fruit character – green apple, pear and quince that can develop honeyed and nutty aromas if aged in oak. Chardonnays vary in sweetness; most white Burgundies are dry while the world’s best selling chardonnay, Kendall Jackson from California, has always had several degrees of sugar in the wine.
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