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In Good Taste

Introduction to Chardonnay

Introduction to Chardonnay

Chardonnay - A Rite of Passage

Considered a “rite of passage” for new winemakers in burgeoning regions, Chardonnay is beloved by winemakers, tasters, and grape farmers alike. It’s popular for flavor notes like papaya, vanilla, oak, pineapple, and even apple and lemon. Since its taste can vary depending on where it’s made, we’ll introduce you to Chardonnay’s long history, origins, and top regions of production. We’ll even share some tips to help you enjoy it for yourself. 

History of Chardonnay

There are several theories on the origin of Chardonnay. With multiple regions fighting over their claim to the wine’s past. The name comes from the Hebrew phrase “Sha’har Adonai,” which means “gate of God.” According to the Mishna, golden grapes were placed above the temple gate’s door in Jerusalem, thus associating the grape with the gate of God. 

Origin of Chardonnay Wines

While some theories claimed the grape came from the Middle East, Cyprus, or Croatia, the most consistent story traces its origin back to the Burgundy region of France

Today, Chardonnay grapes are regularly grown and pressed in diverse locations around the world, from California to England to New Zealand. 

Is Chardonnay a Varietal Wine or Wine Blend?

Chardonnay is popular as a varietal wine, but the grape’s neutral nature makes it so versatile that it is commonly found in complex blends as well. Some common white wine blends feature delicious mixtures of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Chenin Blanc, and others.

Chardonnay is a varietal wine

The Taste of Chardonnay

The taste of Chardonnay heavily depends on how it’s stored or aged. If aged in a stainless steel barrel, it’s likely to have a fruitier, less oaky or toasty flavor. Chardonnay aged with this method is referred to as unoaked.

When stored in new oak barrels, Chardonnay will take on an oaky flavor, whereas a toasty quality comes from aging in an oak barrel for a longer period. 

In general, unoaked Chardonnay makes for a dry white wine with a zippy flavor similar to Sauvignon Blanc—but with a heavier mouthfeel, and without the “grassy” notes. Oaked Chardonnay comes in full-bodied flavors such as butter, baking spices, or vanilla.

Chardonnay Around the World

Because the Chardonnay grape is neutral, its flavor can be highly affected by its region’s soil and climate. Wine experts refer to this type of grape as “terroir-expressive,” a term used to describe wines like Chardonnay that developed unique flavor profiles based on their surroundings. 

If the Chardonnay grape is grown in a warm climate, its wine takes on more tropical flavors. If the grape comes from cooler climates, its taste leans toward green apple and citrus. Because there are so many ways to make Chardonnay wine and the grape is so terroir-expressive, you’ll probably never have the exact same sip of Chardonnay twice. (Cheers to new flavor experiences!)

Grapes picked at different ripeness levels can also determine the final flavor of Chardonnay. Chardonnay produced from very ripe grapes will make a sweeter glass of wine, and Chardonnay made from grapes picked before their peak ripeness will usually turn out drier. 

Old World Chardonnay (from Europe, Africa, or Asia) is often described as lighter in alcohol with a subtle earthiness. In contrast, New World Chardonnay (North, Central, and South Americas) often boasts higher alcohol levels and fruitier taste overall. 

Top Producing Regions for Chardonnay Grapes

Today, the most popular wine-producing regions are as follows:

  • Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne, and other areas in France

  • California and New York in the US

  • Canada

  • Australia

  • New Zealand

  • Italy

  • South Africa

Chardonnay Storing and Serving 

Chardonnay is best when it’s chilled between 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit to preserve its fruity and citrus flavors. Two hours in the refrigerator is sufficient, but it should not be left there for long-term storage. If you’re stocking up for a while, keep your Chardonnay in a specialized wine refrigerator or a cool, dark space.

Like most white wines, Chardonnay is best served in a white wine glass or universal glass with a longer stem and narrower bowl. This shape guides the fruity aromas to the top of the glass for a nice whiff before sipping. 

How to Drink Chardonnay

To properly sip your Chardonnay, follow the See. Swirl. Smell. Sip. Savor method. 

See. If you’re at a restaurant, verify your Chardonnay’s label and vintage are correct. Next, note the clarity and color of your wine to ensure it’s not cloudy. A clear wine is what you’re looking for, as cloudiness may indicate something went wrong in the winemaking process.

Swirl. Give your glass a little swirl. Swirling the wine aerates it and opens up the aromas, making smells more robust and easier to identify.

Smell. Lean in and take a nice whiff of your Chardonnay. See if you can identify what you’re smelling. Is it fruity aromas, spices, floral notes, or anything that smells unpleasant? If it smells moldy or vinegary, something may be off.

Sip. Take a small but adequate sip, swish it a little to allow the Chardonnay to coat your taste buds and linger for a moment, then swallow. 

Savor. Think about the first sip, what you tasted, and if anything delightfully surprised you about Chardonnay. Then, take the next sip and enjoy the delicious process all over again! 

What to Pair with Chardonnay

Depending on the Chardonnay you’re drinking, you’ll likely have a few excellent options for pairings. The easiest way to decide which food to enjoy is to base your selection on the body of the wine. 

Light body: Delicate seafood and fresh cheese or brie pair nicely.

Medium body: Pork tenderloin, poultry, or aged cheeses such as Blue Cheese will be a tasty pair. 

Full body: Rich cream sauce and salmon or grilled meats make a perfect match.

Introduction to Chardonnay Wines - Infographic

Rosé of Sangiovese

Andiamo

Sangiovese can be found in both the Chianti and Montalcino regions of Tuscany (it all sounds so romantic, right?) and is known for producing classic medium-bodied wines. Rosé wine is actually made from red grapes, and this is where the Rosé of Sangiovese comes to play. Crisp, fruit-forward, and easy-to-drink, it's everything you want in your bottle of Rosé and more.

$19.99

Montepulciano

Andiamo

Big, bold, and full of flavor—exactly what you’d expect an Italian wine to be! This classic Italian grape produces some of Italy’s most straightforward red wines and is often used as a blending grape. Not here, though. We let Montepulciano do the heavy lifting as a heavy red wine and shine on its own. If you enjoy the smell of leather bound books, nibbling on dried fruit, and complementary notes of bitter, dark chocolate and sweet plums, you will love this Italian wine. No need to pair it with any certain dish—Montepulciano tastes great with all the Italian classics.

$20.99

Pinot Grigio

La Pluma

If you’re looking for more zest in your life, a bottle of Pinot Grigio can provide that. We included a classic Pinot Grigio in the La Pluma collection because we’re all about light and easy here, which is exactly what this grape from Italy is. It has that dry sense of humor that seems so effortless with a punchy acidity to keep you on your toes, all while offering notes of lemon, limes, green apples, and honeysuckle. Long story short; when it’s been a heavy day and your soul is seeking light things only, you’ll be happy to have this bottle on hand.

$19.99

Pinot Noir

Unprecedented

We couldn’t create the In Good Taste Unprecedented collection without the Golden Retriever of wines: Pinot Noir. Pinot is likable, it’s easy, and its natural state of being is simply charming. It’s an incredibly easy red wine to love, which is why so many people do. The grape itself is from the Burgundy region of France, but has made its way to California, Oregon, Australia, Italy, Argentina, and Germany since. Our Pinot Noir has no surprise twists—it’s a classic light red with just the right amount of sweetness to keep you coming back for another glass (or two).

$25.99

Coteaux Bourguignons

Passport

The Burgundy region of France is home to their best Pinot Noirs, but we took the grapes into our own hands to create something extra special with our Coteaux Bourguignons. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, which results in a French red that’s light in body but full in flavor. The ripest blueberries and freshest herbs can be easily detected in this French burgundy blend. May we suggest pairing it with some creamy brie and freshly baked bread? It’s a oui-ning combo.

$25.99

Verdicchio

Andiamo

A little sweet. A little tart. A little salty? You truly get it all with this white Italian wine. If you're into that biting acidity, Verdicchio will probably be high on your list of most-loved wines from our Andiamo collection. Citrus fruits like mandarin, lemon, and grapefruit are at the forefront, but what really sets this Italian wine apart is its distinct notes of almond. While our Verdicchio can start out tasting a bit tart, the more you sip, the smoother it becomes. In fact, we suggest approaching it as an aperitif (Italian for an alcoholic drink sipped before a meal to stimulate the appetite) to experience its full effect.

$23.99

Côtes du Rhône White

Passport

This was one of our first French wines to join the Passport collection and one sip will explain why. Some background on the Rhône Valley in France: While this region is known for its dark, juicy reds, a very small amount of special white wines are made in the Rhône Valley. Our Côtes du Rhône is packed with French-perfected, floral flavor and Old-World charm. Its natural tang paired with the weighty Marsanne grape and aromatic Roussanne grape results in a crisp, savory sip that’ll transport you to a sunbathing chair by the Rhône itself.

$23.99

Bordeaux Rouge

Passport

When you picture medieval folk sitting around a feast with goblets of wine, chances are they were drinking Bordeaux. This wine has been made in France since forever and is arguably the most classic French wine out there. Bordeaux is known for its full body, smoky notes, and rich, oaky taste. If you love cabs, chances are you will adore Bordeaux. For our Passport wines, we had to include this classic French red for you to sip and enjoy to your heart’s content. Best savored over a rich meal like lamb ragu, ratatouille, or BBQ.

$21.99

Ventoux Rosé

Passport

You probably know that the Tour de France is held on Ventoux Mountain in France, but did you know that the same area is known for its high-altitude rosé? This is the kind of quintessential French rosé that you don’t need to spin your wheels over—it’s simply delicious, crisp, and perfect for warm weather. Despite its delicate, pale pink color, each sip is lush with flavor, from tropical passionfruit and zesty citrus to refreshing melon. This has the potential to be your new summer go-to, so we’d suggest stocking up.

$21.99

Grenache

La Pluma

We knew the only red in the La Pluma collection had to be exceptionally good and exceptionally light. That’s why including a Grenache was a no-brainer. If smooth, fruit-forward, light-bodied reds appeal to your tastebuds, this could be your new favorite. The grape itself is tricky; depending on the climate of where its grown, Grenache wines could be light, dense, or somewhere in the middle. La Pluma’s version has all the airiness and flavor notes we wanted in our Grenache, which is how we know you’ll love it. Get the most of this red by pairing it with roasted meats, spice-heavy vegetables, and Mexican-inspired dishes with lots of cumin.

$27.99

Barbera

Andiamo

We really try not to play favorites at In Good Taste, but there is just something about an Italian Barbera that hits different in the best way. Barberas are the perfect wine for pizza night; they're low in alcohol, and medium-bodied but taste super light, and their berry and plum flavors pair incredibly well with savory tomato sauce and cheese! Another fun thing about Barberas? They actually taste great when chilled, which is not something we're in the habit of suggesting for our red wines. Our Italian Barbera lies somewhere between the body of a cab and a pinot and is the ideal choice for a "ladies who lunch" kind of afternoon.

$21.99

Vermentino

Wild Child

We couldn't not have a weird white in the mix, right?! The Vermentino grape is native along the coast of Italy on the island of Sardinia (yeah, like the fish). Because of its origin, this grape offers a salty, crisp flavor that's incredibly easy to drink and enjoy. We say it's "weird" only because it's not widely known by name, but chances are you've probably had it before if you've ever ordered white wine in an Italian restaurant. If you love peaches and lemons and get a kick out of anything that reminds you of the sea, our Vermentino is the perfect Italian white to experience on a sunny day outside.

$23.99

Viognier

Unprecedented

For the Chardonnay lovers who are looking to dig a bit deeper in the world of bold whites, a Viognier (pronounced vee-own-yay) could be your next big adventure. Viogniers tend to have more range; while they can be creamy with hints of vanilla like their Chardonnay counterpart, they also offer lighter, fruitier flavors like tangerine, mango, and honeysuckle. It’s still a more full-bodied white wine, but unlike Chardonnay, it’s softer on acidity and more perfumed. Spend an afternoon with a glass of Viognier amongst the flowers and it’ll all make sense.

$24.99

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