Categories:  Fresh and Crisp –  Rich and Creamy

Chardonnay is leading the pack when it comes to diversity and inclusion!  When the desire for a sweet wine arises, chardonnay raises its hand.  Crisp, dry and refreshing you say – chardonnay will make your day!  Bubbles galore, chardonnay, say no more!  Buttery and creamy, chardonnay is dreamy!

Considered one of the most diverse and versatile of the white grape varietals, Chardonnay can grow in cool, moderate or warm climates and range from light, crisp and tart, to rich, creamy and baked fruit flavored.  Vintners love Chardonnay for its diversity and the ability to create everything from inexpensive, mass-produced wines to high-dollar premium wines.  When mother nature does not provide the ideal growing environment for Chardonnay, vintners have the ability to use many tricks of the trade to impact the end flavor to ensure the desired balance, flavor profile and experience for the consumer. 

Chardonnay has not always been the darling of the U.S. wine market.  One singular event changed the course of history for this varietal. Chateau Montelena’s 1973 chardonnay, submitted in 1976 to the world-famous wine competition, The Judgement of Paris, shocked the world by coming in 1st in the white wine category.  Watch out world, U.S. wine makers and the U.S. wine industry not only made headlines, they made the world stand at attention in acknowledgement of the quality and vitality of new world wines and proved they could compete with the best in class.  Chardonnay soon became the most planted varietal in the US and established its dominant position in the U.S. as well as export markets globally.  So dominant, in fact, that DOMSOM is convinced chardonnay is grown in all 50 states today!

Popularity is not all it’s cracked up to be.  With U.S. wine’s having very loose rules and regulations compared to most EU or Old World countries, quality can be sacrificed for quantity.  Chardonnay’s versatility gives wine makers the ability to create wine styles best suited for the quality of grapes harvested year in and year out.  Most mass-produced chardonnay is meant to be consumed immediately.  For these wines, grapes are typically from moderate to warm regions where they ripen early, have high sugar content and lower acidity.  As a result, wine makers must balance the high resulting alcohol levels with creamy or oaky influences to avoid bland, hot, alcohol driven wines. 

On the other hand, ideal growing conditions, coupled with grapes from “Have’s” vineyards can produce wines capable of maturing for 20+ years.  Since chardonnay can successfully grow in cool, moderate and warm regions, the variance in style and quality can be tremendous, as can be the ageability of the wine.  The challenge is knowing how to predict which style of wine you are buying or serving.  Fortunately, U.S. wine makers understand the challenge and many label their wines to help consumers pick the right wine for the right palette.  Verbiage like “un-oaked”, “dry”, “no MLF” (Malolactic Fermentation) all give clues as to the style of chardonnay in the bottle.  Higher alcohol (14% and higher) can indicate a warmer climate chardonnay with bolder body and lower acidity.  Lower alcohol can indicate a crisper, drier and fresher style of acidity.  With more research, beyond this DOMSOM course content, deeper knowledge of US wine regions can also help indicate the style of chardonnay you can expect.  Use your DOMSOM skills to help you pick the chardonnay perfectly suited for the style you prefer!

We at DOMSOM love hearing someone say “I don’t like chardonnay”!  Seriously, you ask?  Why on earth would we want someone to not like a particular variety of wine?!  Our experience proves that it is not actually chardonnay which is not liked, it’s the specific style of chardonnay!  Serve someone who does not like a high alcohol, creamy, buttery full bodied chardonnay a crisp, acid forward, clean un-oaked chardonnay and you are likely to change their opinion.