Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape variety used to make white wine. It is believed to have originated in the Burgundy wine region of eastern France but is now grown wherever wine is produced, from England to New Zealand.
For new and developing wine regions, growing Chardonnay is seen as a "rite of passage" and an easy segue into the international wine market. The Chardonnay grape itself is very neutral, with many of the flavors commonly associated with the grape being derived from such influences as terroir and oak. It is vinified in many different styles, from the elegant, "flinty" wines of Chablis to rich, buttery Meursaults and New World wines with tropical fruit flavors.
Chardonnay is an important component of many sparkling wines around the world, including Champagne. A peak in popularity in the late 1980s gave way to a backlash among those wine drinkers who saw the grape as a leading negative component of the globalization of wine. Nonetheless, it remains one of the most widely-planted grape varieties, with over 400,000 acres (175,000 hectares) worldwide, second only to Airén among white wine grapes and planted in more wine regions than any other grape – including Cabernet Sauvignon.
Hobnob (France) $9.49
Smoking Loon (United States, California) $10.95
SalmonRun (United States, New York) $11.49
Fat Bastard (France) $11.79
Yellow Tail (Australia) $7.99
butter or cream sauces
creamy goat or sheep's milk cheeses
seafood with rich sauces
Avoid chiles, cilanto, tomato sauces and dill
Being a relatively neutral grape, Chardonnay styles can vary tremendously from one producer/region to another. I was first exposed to chardonnay in the 80s, when the heavily oaked California style was becoming quite popular. I found this style to be rather unpleasant to drink on its own, and not at all food-friendly, and as a result, Chardonnay fell to the bottom of my list for quite some time.
Fortunately for me, the pendulum is swinging the other way, and the less manipulated, lighter tasting, steel-aged Chardonnays are gaining in popularity. I particularly enjoy it with lobster ravioli in a cream sauce, or sauteed scallops.