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The Majestic Guide to Chardonnay


Category: Majestic Guides

The Majestic Guide to Chardonnay




In short:

Love it or hate it, Chardonnay is a wonderfully diverse grape, and one of the original three noble white varieties. Showcased by diverse styles and flavours around the world, there’s more to this golden grape than you might think…


Chardonnay has woven itself into the fabric of the wine world, leaving an indelible mark with its versatility and adaptability. Its journey from its ancestral home in Burgundy, France, to the far corners of the globe is a testament to its allure and universal appeal. Let us explore its rich history, classic styles, diverse expressions influenced by climate and terroir - and its pivotal role in sparkling wines, particularly Champagne, across various winemaking regions.

The history of Chardonnay

Originating in the vineyards of Burgundy, Chardonnay has been cultivated for centuries, earning a reputation for its finesse and ability to reflect terroir and thrive in a multitude of climates. It wasn't until the 20th century that Chardonnay garnered international acclaim, with winemakers worldwide recognising its potential to produce exceptional wines. Today, Chardonnay remains one of the most widely planted and revered grape varieties globally.
Chardonnay


Champagne

Climate & Terroir

Chardonnay's expression is profoundly influenced by climate and terroir, resulting in distinct regional characteristics. In Chablis, the cool continental climate and limestone-rich soils yield Chardonnays renowned for their steely acidity, minerality, and citrus flavours. California's diverse microclimates produce a spectrum of styles, from the cool-climate elegance of Sonoma Coast to the sun-kissed intensity of Napa Valley. England's chalky soils and moderate maritime climate create conditions reminiscent of Champagne, producing still and sparkling wines of exceptional quality. New Zealand's proximity to the ocean and volcanic soils impart a vibrant acidity and distinct minerality to its Chardonnays, while Australia's warm climate fosters ripe fruit flavours and lush textures.

Shop our top Chablis and Burgundy wines


Oak influence

The use of oak is a defining characteristic of Chardonnay winemaking, contributing to its complexity and depth. In Burgundy, oak ageing is judiciously applied, allowing the purity of the fruit to shine through. Conversely, California winemakers often embrace a more pronounced oak influence, employing new French oak barrels to impart flavours of vanilla, caramel, and spice. Australian Chardonnays also often undergo oak ageing, adding layers of complexity to the wine's ripe fruit profile.

California

Shop our top New World Chardonnay wines


Burgundy

Champagne & Sparkling

As we touched on earlier, Chardonnay plays a pivotal role in the production of sparkling wines, particularly Champagne. As one of the three primary grape varieties used in Champagne production, Chardonnay contributes elegance, finesse, and acidity to these celebrated wines. Beyond Champagne, Chardonnay is utilised in sparkling wine production globally, with producers in England, California, New Zealand, and Australia crafting high-quality sparkling wines that rival their Old World counterparts.

Shop our top Chardonnay-based sparkling wines


Whether expressed in still wines or sparkling wines, Chardonnay continues to captivate wine enthusiasts with its diversity and complexity. If you’re yet to embrace the world of Chardonnay, or haven’t tried one for a while, we’ve got a huge range of styles, appellations and countries to choose from. Our in-store colleagues will be able to match-make you with your perfect bottle, or pop along to one of our Tasting events!




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