Updated: Aug 23, 2021
When I mention Chardonnay, I can see many people grimace, with thoughts of bobbing for peaches in a barrel of drawn butter. Chardonnay was often assembled to showcase that style, however it was never the only version around. Chardonnay is manipulated by a wine maker differently throughout the world, and is easily one of the most malleable, winemaker friendly varietals, and there is likely a style that you would enjoy. It may take a good deal of trial and error though, and I can help you narrow down the thousands of options to find the style that suits you. Planted to vine all over the world, but arguably the grape of Burgundy, France. Chablis is my recommendation for a base test of whether you have a future with Chardonnay or not. It is a style that shows the grape for what it is under minimal manipulation, and I urge you to try it before making any judgement of the grape itself.
Chardonnay shows differently in cool climates versus hot climates, so much in fact does the body vary that it may be hard to believe it is indeed the same grape. Hot climates develop huge tropical fruit and huge weight and body, and cooler climates can be more apple and pear and light body with great acidity. Try to compare a number of different Chardonnay producers from New Zealand to California, South Africa to France, or Australia to Oregon to see the impact of climate on the juice in your glass.
Next, determine if you prefer oak ageing or if that step is not necessary for your pallette, remember that warmer climates produce rounder wines that may better sustain oak barreling, and cooler climates may want to showcase the great acidity. Try the exercise with different foods as well. The opportunity to taste wines with varying degree of manipulation offers you thousands of Chardonnay examples. One great way to try a sampling of multiple styles is to attend one of my events...
If thousands of still wine versions still leaves you seeking your preferred style of Chardonnay, remember that Chardonnay also makes a great sparkling wine! The brilliant Blanc de Blancs from Champagne are made of Chardonnay grapes, and many producers around the world make these sparklers, too.