Chardonnay is the most widely planted white wine grape varietal in the world, and chances are you either love it or hate it.
This character-filled wine is celebrated around the world on the fourth Thursday of May – which just happens to be today! Whether it’s oaked or unoaked, buttery or crisp, pop that bottle of your favourite Chard in the fridge, chill it to a perfect 10°C, and say saluté to #ChardDay!
9 facts about Chardonnay
1. Chardonnay is incredibly easy to grow. It is the most planted grape variety around the world and much of that has to do with its ability to grow almost anywhere. While Pinot Noir – its sibling from Burgundy – can be incredibly fickle, Chardonnay seems to find a home almost anywhere.
2. Chardonnay takes its name from the village of Chardonnay in the Mâcon region of Burgundy.
3. Over the centuries it has been spelled Chardenai, Chardenay, Chardenet, Chardennet, Chardonai, Chardonnet, Chatenait, Chardonet, Chaudenay, and Chaudenet before the modern spelling of Chardonnay became its standardised name in the 1890s.
4. Chardonnay has a wide range of flavours depending on where the grapes are grown. Chardonnay grown in very warm wine regions tend to exhibit tropical fruit flavours of pineapple, mango, or papaya with soft acidity, whereas Chardonnay grown in cool wine growing regions tend to exhibit bright apple, pear, peach and citrus flavours with bright acidity.
5. Chardonnay wines have a reputation for being made in the cellar rather than the vineyard, meaning the influence of the winemaker plays a large part in the character and flavour of the resulting wine. With that said, location does matter.
6. Not all Chardonnay is buttery. The oak and buttery qualities of some Chardonnay wines are the result of style choices made by the winemaker, not the characteristics of the grape itself.
7. If you don’t like flavours of vanilla and toasted oak, buy an unoaked Chardonnay. In the 80s and early 90s as the US was going crazy for Chardonnay, California aggressively oaked it, creating wines that were big on flavours of vanilla, toasted marshmallows and wood. People loved them, and some still do, but tastes have changed. If you want something a bit more refreshing and crisp, go unoaked, or try Chablis.
8. If you’re drinking Blanc de Blancs champagne, you’re drinking Chardonnay. Blanc de Blancs Champagne is a bubbly made entirely from white wine grapes – whereas typical Champagnes are made from a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.
9. Chardonnay can be paired with steak. If you’ve got a big, rich Chardonnay, fire up the braai and throw a few steaks on. You’ll be blown away by how well the wine and the meat work together.
Experts say saluté to #ChardDay
Esmé Groenewald, General Secretary of the SA Sommeliers Association:
What do you love most about Chardonnay:"Its versatility and the way the winemaker can add his/her touch to it." Best pairing with Chardonnay: “Good old-fashioned fish and chips - nothing fancy, it just works.” Fave Chard: “De Morgenzon Chardonnay." How will you be celebrating this #ChardDay?: “Eating fish & chips on the beach with a glass of Chard."
Jean-Vincent Ridon, The Flying Sommelier
What do you love most about Chardonnay: “Chardonnay is a terroir wine when in in cool climate, while it can become a winemaker's choice under warmer conditions. In a way I love Chardonnay because they are Chardonnays! All displaying a very unique identity, from a sharp lemony Chablis to the a butterscotch, vanilla and coconut Napa Valley Chardonnay." Best pairing with Chardonnay: “A very elegant unwooded chardonnay is often the best pairing for shellfishes like grilled prawns or crayfish. Enough acidity to meet the richness of the tail meat, but not overwhelming to enjoy the subtlety of this sea bounty.” Fave Chard: “I love my burgundies, but Robertson-based Dewetshof produces extremely enjoyable chardonnay, specially their unwooded Limestone Hill and Bon Vallon.” How will you be celebrating this #ChardDay?: “Chardonnay is probably the most used for proudly South African sparkling MCC wines so I will probably open a Graham Beck Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay) because every celebration calls for bubbles."
Jon Meinking, #SAWineShowcase
What do you love most about Chardonnay: “I love that Chardonnay is so much more than just the delicious, buttery monsters of yore but that some expressions can show finesse and restraint through leaner expressions, whether they be unwooded or balanced with light wood support. Thus I can drink Chardonnays in every season and with most foods!” Best pairing with Chardonnay: “On the above note, my favourite pairing with a delicious Chardonnay is another glass of the same!” Fave Chard: “Choosing a favourite Chardonnay is like choosing a favourite song, too many for different reasons. Some that come to immediate mind are Paul Cluver Seven Flags, De Wetshof Bateleur, Bouchard Finlayson Kaaimansgat, Jordan Nine Yards, Groote Post Kapokberg, etc etc.” How will you be celebrating this #ChardDay?: “This international #ChardDay I’ll be smashing a few of my favourite Chards with my Chardonnay-loving and ABC friends, just to show them that Chardonnay expression has changed very much in SA in the last few decades and that ours compete with the best in the world! Sharing is caring after all :)”
Shon Kumar, co-owner of TOPS at SPAR Wine Show
What do you love most about Chardonnay: “The versatility of the grape: from a crisp, clean style right through to heavily wooded, ripe fruit styles.” Best pairing with Chardonnay: “Good friends, scallops and langoustines.” Fave Chard: “Anything from the De Wetshof range." How will you be celebrating this #ChardDay?: “With a Blanc de Blanc MCC of course!”.