Hugely popular, versatile and widely planted international white variety equally capable of extreme mediocrity and regal splendour.
Early budding (so prey to spring frost) and ripening, productive. Easy to grow. Best suited to soils dominated by limestone or calcareous clay that are not too dry.
Chardonnay, loved or reviled, is arguably the most versatile white wine grape. Without a dominant flavour of its own, it can take on a wide array of aromas depending on where it is grown and, particularly, how it is made. Although the grapes generally reach relatively high sugar levels, the wines can taste lean, even tart, almost like a SAUVIGNON BLANC in its refreshing effect, in a cool climate such as that of Chablis. But whatever the style, through various swings of fashion, Chardonnay has shown itself a particularly malleable partner in such winemaking operations as malolactic fermentation, lees stirring, barrel fermentation and all manner of oak-related practices. It runs the gamut from subtle and savoury to rich and spicy still, dry wines, as well as providing unparalleled base wine for top-quality fizz and, occasionally, in the Mâconnais and Burgen-land for example, submitting to botrytis to produce interesting sweet wines.