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Varietal > Chardonnay
Wine Grape Varietals 101


What is Chardonnay

One of the most popular and widely planted white grapes in the world, Chardonnay produces some of the world’s most iconic white and sparkling wines. The grape is the hallmark of many New World regions, yet its spiritual home is in France. There, it produces some of the most sought-after and long-lived white wines in Burgundy as well as transcendent sparkling wines in Champagne.

The vine performs well in a variety of climates, ranging from cool regions like Chablis in Burgundy to warm ones like the Barossa Valley in Australia. Chardonnay is an early-budding variety, which can pose issues in cooler climates that are prone to spring frosts. It can also lose its acidity rather quickly towards the tail end of ripening before harvest.

Chardonnay can stand up to a number of production methods, from unoaked to barrel-fermented to barrel-aged. Many examples also show the use of malolactic fermentation, which converts the grape’s sharp malic acid into softer, more buttery lactic acid.

The flavors of Chardonnay can range from apple, citrus and flint in cool climates to peach, melon and tropical fruit in moderate to warm climates. Versions that see time in oak can display tones like vanilla and toast, and those that undergo malolactic fermentation are typically creamy in feel and buttery in flavor.


Chardonnay has become synonymous with Burgundy and is the main white grape used throughout the region. To the north, in the cool climate of Chablis, the wines are citrusy and apple-driven, with a pronounced flinty or stony element. Chablis wines are either completely unoaked and matured in stainless steel tanks or aged in neutral oak, which imparts very little flavor.

Farther south in the Côte d’Or, which is comprised of the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune, the wines become fuller in body and toasty, often spending more time in newer oak barrels.

The Côte de Beaune is home to some of the world’s most iconic communes for Chardonnay: Bâtard-Montrachet, Corton-Charlemagne, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet. South of the Côte d’Or is the Côte Chalonnaise and the Mâconnais, where the best value Burgundies can be found from an array of village-designated appellations.


Chardonnay is one of the main grapes used in the sparkling wines of Champagne, alongside the red grapes Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. While it can be blended into the final cuvée with the other grapes of the region, Chardonnay is the sole grape used in bottles labeled blanc de blancs.


Chardonnay is the most widely planted white-wine grape in the state, with regions like Napa Valley and Sonoma County producing high-quality, premium bottlings. The style is generally very rich and heady in American or French oak compared to their Old World counterparts. Nuanced, mineral-driven examples can be found in more coastal regions like the Sonoma Coast. Chardonnay is also widely planted in the Central Coast, including the regions of Monterey, Sta. Rita Hills and the Santa Lucia Highlands.

Global Production

Chardonnay has a broad reach across the world. It can be found in the sparkling wines of Franciacorta in Northern Italy and the still wines of Styria in Austria, where it is called Morillon. It has found a foothold in New York State, contributing to both still and sparkling wines in the Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley and Long Island wine regions. Both Oregon and Washington also produce bottlings, typically in an unctuous, oaked style.

In the southern hemisphere, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Chile all produce quality offerings that offer the full gamut of price point and style. Are you looking for a Chardonnay to remember? Explore our extensive Chardonnay wine reviews. Our expert tasters rate and review thousands of options to make it easy to select a wine you’ll enjoy.

Synonym: Morillon

Chardonnay grapes are found in sparkling, white, and dessert wines.

Structural Characteristics

Low Medium High
Alcohol levels
Low Medium High
Low Medium High
Tannin Structure
Low Medium High

Examples of Chardonnay to Try

Handling Tips

45-55°F / 7-13°C
5-10 years