Your Guide to Drinking ‘Anything But Crappy Chardonnay’!

Upper Reach Swan Valley Wineries ChardonnayI say we make changes, no longer should there be an ABC Club (aka Anything But Chardonnay) but more so and rightly so, it should be the ‘Anything But Crappy Chardonnay’ Club. I literally scoff at the number of people who I meet who say they’ll never touch a Chardonnay with a 30-foot pole. I scoff because Chardonnay makes greatness, and I am not just talking about Champagne (yes French Champagne and a lot of sparkling wines have Chardonnay in, whether it’s mixed with other grapes or it’s 100% aka a Blanc de Blancs) but the fact that Chardonnay is a massively versatile grape that can make anything from still dry whites to sweet wines and sparkling wines is fairly impressive!

So this my friends is a post all about Chardonnay. I owe this grape variety for all the pleasure it has brought me over the years (and continues to do so to this very day) and who knows it may even debunk a few myths or two and open your eyes further to the marvellous world of Chardy. My motivation to write this post is because International Chardonnay Day is just about here so I thought it would be a great way to celebrate the fabulous wines made from it.

I started this post by doing some research into what people search for online about Chardonnay. I looked into the most commonly asked questions Google gets about Chardonnay and decided I’d answer as many of those as I could. So I suggest you pour yourself a glass of Chardy, sit back and hopefully you find this post insightful and maybe even a little entertaining.

So first thing first…

When is International Chardonnay Day?

Thanks to Rick Bakas, Chardonnay Chardonnay Day is officially celebrated on the Thursday before Memorial Day in the U.S.A each year. To find out this year’s date, please check out my wine days calendar.

What is Chardonnay?

If you’re wanting a definition of what Chardonnay is; basically it’s a white wine grape. In fact it is the world’s most planted white wine grape. It originated from Burgundy in France (one of the most famous regions in the world for Chardonnay) and is well-known for producing Champagne and still dry wine. It can be oaked or it can be made in stainless steel tanks to produce a fruity, laid-back wine.

As far as I am aware, ‘Chardonnay’ does not translate into anything, however the grape variety was supposedly named after the town of Chardonnay, Saône-et-Loire, in eastern France.

On a not so serious note, I just had to include Urban Dictionary’s definition for Chardonnay

The most beautiful girl you will ever meet she will never let you down no matter what and she will always be by your side. Without her you r nothing. With her you are safe; shes someone you can depend on when no one cares about you. I.e. ‘you are such a chardonnay’

How do you pronounce Chardonnay?

Simply put, it’s said like ‘shar-don-nay’. You can listen to a sound bite of how to say Chardonnay on the Cambridge Dictionary website.

Just for the record, Kath & Kim’s ‘Car-don-nay’ is a little bit off the mark ;)

What are the characteristics of Chardonnay?

As already mentioned, Chardonnay can be made in a huge range of ways that really impacts how the end product will turn out.

The three most common styles you’ll find at your local bottle shop are:

  1. Oaky, Rich & Creamy
  2. Unoaked, Fruity, Light & Zesty
  3. Sparkling

In terms of flavours you can find anything from orchard/tree fruit (think pears, yellow apples, white peach and apricot) to tropical fruits (like honeydew melon, mango and pineapple) to chalk/gravel, butter/toast and then there’s vanilla, baking spice, caramel and more!

For cool climate Chardonnay’s (Burgundy, New Zealand, Western Australia for example) you’ll find the acidity higher and you will be more likely to find flavours of citrus and orchard fruits while warmer regions (like South Africa, California and Argentina) will have more tropical fruit flavours. This is just a generalisation as obviously with different winemaking techniques a wine can be crafted into something quite different.

Sunday arvo reading while it’s pouring with rain ?? outside. ? = @winefolly The Essential Guide to Wine ??

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Is Chardonnay Sweet or Dry?

Chardonnay would typically be classed as a full-bodied dry white wine. However there are exceptions to this. Most Chardonnay’s you come across in your bottle shop will either be oaked or unoaked – that’s the big difference and I find most people know the style they prefer. If you’re ever uncertain if it’s an oaked or unoaked style, either ask for some assistance or have a read of the back label as most winemakers will put it on the back if it’s oaked.

Saying that, I do know you can find some dessert-style wines made from Chardonnay. I actually find the term ‘sweet’ quite a difficult one to define when it comes to wine. This is mostly because you have sugar-sweet and fruit-sweet plus everyone’s sweetness thresholds vary – I notice this a lot at tastings and even when Mr. Spittoon and I are both describing the same wine. Technically dry and sweet are the opposites of each other however sometimes the fruit flavours in a wine can make a dry wine seem sweet. That sweet note isn’t coming from any residual sugar left in the wine, it could be coming from the ripeness of the grapes at harvest or the impact of maturing the wine in an oak barrel plus factors like alcohol, acidity and tannins in the wine.

So what’s the ultimate answer to the above? Simply put, you have to give everything a go! If you haven’t tried a certain Chardonnay before, then don’t judge a book by its cover/name. Yes you may have had a Chardonnay before, but you haven’t had that one. If there’s one thing you take away from this post, it’s that each and every Chardonnay and wine for that matter, is unique and you can’t say you do/don’t like it until you give it a shot!

How should you serve & drink Chardonnay?

I actually wrote a blog post dedicated to ideal wine serving temperatures a few months back. For me, my personal preference is to have Chardonnay a little warmer than usual. Especially if it’s oaked as this helps bring out all those buttery, creamy flavours and aromas that I love. Wine Folly, suggests serving rich creamy Chardonnay’s at about 13 degrees celsius.

I’d suggest grabbing the bottle out of the fridge 5-10mins before serving so it’s not too cold on first sip.

In terms of glassware, I like to drink my Chardonnay’s out of a nice big bowl-like glass. The Riedel Varietal Specific Chardonnay glasses (as pictured below) are AMAZING!
Chardonnay Specific Riedel Glass

How do you find the best Chardonnay?

Jump a few paragraphs back and that’s exactly how you find the best Chardonnay for you. Don’t shy away from trying new wines, give everything a go once. The more you try, the more you’ll understand the style and flavours you enjoy in your Chardonnays. I like to use wine apps like Vivino to track what I drink – the cool thing about Vivino is it tells you what styles and grape varieties you drink the most of. It’s no surprise the amount of Chardonnay’s I have listed on my profile!
Vivino - Travelling Corkscrew Profile

Sauvignon Blanc vs. Chardonnay

Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are two of the leading dry white wines on the market. These two grape varieties actually do have a number of things in common from the wine regions they are grown in, to preferring cool climates, etc. They are also both very versatile and can be made into a variety of wine styles.

Generally speaking, Sauv Blancs are lighter in style and are more herbaceous and acidic than Chardonnay. Sauv’s are known for their zippy, zesty nature and for displaying notes of passionfruit, gooseberry, grapefruit and grassiness.

The middle of the road between these two varieties is the barrel-aged ‘fume blanc’ style of Sauvignon Blancs that you may see in your local bottle shop. These oaked Sauv Blancs taste creamy while still displaying those typical ‘green’ notes of a Sauv Blanc.

What does Chardonnay pair with?

The types of food you can match with Chardonnay are endless. It more comes down to working out what style of Chardonnay you have (i.e. is it oaked and full-bodied or unoaked and crisp) as to whether you match a light seafood dish or something like chicken or pork with it.
Evans & Tate Chardonnay & Pasta

Some of my favourite matches include:

  • Blanc de Blancs Sparkling with; popcorn, potato chips, sushi, fish’n’chips, fries and grilled flounder (flat fish) for a champagne breakfast
  • Oaked Chardonnay with; butter chicken, roast chicken, potato pizza, creamy spinach pasta and pork belly
  • Unoaked Chardonnay with; seafood from scallops and oysters to an entire grilled fish

I find when it comes to wine and food matching it really pays to experiment, as you never know what will and won’t work. Food flavours can either compliment the flavours in the wine or you can go for a complete contrast in flavours. The latter can sometimes really surprise you!

Pinelli Sparkling Juliet & Fish'n'Chips

Chardonnay’s I’ve tasted lately

As you already know, I love my Chardonnay and drink a lot of it! I do love my big, bold oaked Chardonnay’s however I also can quite happily sip on a nice crisp and refreshing unoaked style. Below are some of the Chardonnay’s I have tried recently which I would recommend off my taste buds:

Our first stop on our trip down south was at the @gilbert_wines_3devils cellar door on Albany Highway just before Mt Barker and what a great start to the trip it was. Clint took us through a tasting of the range and this 2015 Hand Picked Chardonnay was a definite winner for $25. Crisp golden yellow colour on the eye with whiffs of honeydew melon, vanilla spiced pears and crisp citrus rising up from the glass. In the mouth it has a silk-like creamy texture with candied lemons, fresh white peaches and a touch of vanilla coming through. Delectable! All opinions are based on my own taste buds. Wine is subjective & always evolving, so make sure you drink what you enjoy! #tcweekdaywine #tctastingnotes #gilbertswines

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I felt like a bottle of great wine on Sunday night to go with a blue cheese & spinach fettuccine I was making so I went into our ‘cellar’ and came out with this bottle of 2010 Redbrook Chardonnay from @evansandtate – I knew it would live up to my expectations with ease. On the eye it’s a brilliant golden yellow hue with aromas of salty butter, pastry, pineapple and mango – I could smell it for days! In the mouth it was über creamy with vanilla pod, preserved lemons and a touch of baking spice coming through. The finish went on and on and on. An absolutely enjoyable Chardy down to the very last drop. Also it went well with the pasta – both elements were equally flavoursome and didn’t over power one another ? All opinions are based on my own taste buds. Wine is subjective, so make sure you drink what you enjoy! #tcweekdaywine #tctastingnotes #evansandtate

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So May is #AussieWineMonth and I have to admit popping a bottle of @sittellawinery Blanc de Blancs is the perfect way to start the month off! I picked this up for about $25 from the Chateau Guildford Cellarbrations. As you are probably aware, Sittella are based out in Perth’s Swan Valley however this 100% Chardonnay is made from the cool-climate grapes of Pemberton in the south-west of WA. Sittella are fabulous sparkling wine producers so if you like bubbles – make sure to check them out. This non-vintage is made the same way as champagne, aka ‘Methode Traditionnelle’. It’s a silver yellow on the eye with tons of fast-streaming bubbles coming up from the bottom of the glass. On the nose I can’t get past the crisp apples and lemon butter notes. Whilst on the palate it’s oh so smooth and refreshing, not to mention extremely easy drinking. One of my go-to sparklers. All opinions are based on my own taste buds. Wine is subjective & always evolving, so make sure you drink what you enjoy! #tcweekdaywine #tctastingnotes #sittella

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You may of seen on the blog recently about our visit to @galafreywines just out of Mt Barker in the Great Southern region of WA. If not here’s the link: travellingcorkscrew.com.au/galafrey-wines This is one of the tipples we couldn’t help but buy from the cellar door for $30. This dry grown 2015 Reserve Chardonnay spends 12 months in new French oak barrels prior to being released and I think it’s ridiculously delicious! I actually completely forgot to write a tasting note for this one as I was just so smitten with it! I’d definitely recommend giving this one a whirl! From the Winemaker: nose = white peach, tropical fruit & honeyed butteriness and the palate = fig, lemon, melon + creamy! All opinions are based on my own taste buds. Wine is subjective & always evolving, so make sure you drink what you enjoy! #tcweekdaywine #tctastingnotes

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Do you have a favourite Chardonnay? Let us know below!

10 thoughts on “Your Guide to Drinking ‘Anything But Crappy Chardonnay’!

  1. Haha love it Allison!! The blind tasting idea is gold – definitely a great way to get people away from judging a vino before they taste it :)

  2. Preach! We love Chardonnay and literally just finished a tasting note on a lovely “oaky” chardonnay where we say “ABCs be damned”! Best thing we’ve done with those people is blind taste them…amazing how much people like it a lot when they don’t know it’s chard. Like every Grape, there is a huge spectrum and you’ve described it beautifully! Cheers!

  3. Great overview of ABC!! Agreed, Chardonnay often gets a bad wrap. Its not the grape to blame, but the techniques used to make the wine…and if you don’t like buttery whites, don’t drink them. And if you don’t like austere styles, don’t drink them. There are so many styles to appease everyone! http://enobytes.com/2010/12/17/abc-wine/

  4. As long as you’re open to giving them a taste then that’s the most important thing! I’ll have to hunt out a Millbrook Chard – thanks for the heads up Amanda ??

  5. You sound like me Jamie! I can’t get enough of the stuff. There’s some great Chardy’s coming out of the Great Southern – I must get my hands on some of the Estate 807 Chard now, their Rieslings are awesome!

  6. Glad to hear you enjoyed the post Stuart. Yes there are so many Chardy haters out there, purely because they’ve tried one bad egg most of the time too! The amount of people I meet who aren’t shy about expressing their distaste for Chard only to find out it’s a big part of what makes up Champagne – the shock on their faces is priceless ?

  7. I LOVE my Gilbert’s Handpicked Chardy. Although I wasn’t always a fan, I never used to like Chardonnay until I did a tasting at Estate 807 in Denmark and tasted their 2011 Estate Grown Chardonnay, after telling the lovely man at the cellar door I did not like Chardonnay’s I had a taste and suddenly I was in love! So creamy and oaky and delicious. I am now converted and Chardy is my wine of choice these days!

  8. As a committed oaked to the brim Chardonnay drinker I can’t believe how many people say, ‘Oh, I don’t touch Chardonnay’ only to be surprised when they taste a couple of the wildly varied choices and find the actually do like Chardonnay of a certain style. Admittedly it is rarely the full oaked ones, but, horses for courses. Loved the write up, very informative. I agree with the warmer is better especially when it’s a heavier vintage.

Grab a glass of wine and let me know what you think...