Is Chardonnay Sweet or Dry? Should It Be Served Chilled?

What is Chardonnay?

Whether you are a wine drinker or not, chances are you have heard of Chardonnay. It is not just a popular type of white wine – in fact, it’s the most famous one and its grapes are one of the most planted around the world. Chardonnay is said to have originated from the Burgundy region of France, where it is known as White Burgundy. The wine began to gain its popularity there and was greatly known for its elegance. Its grapes are grown in Burgundy, California, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and in some parts of South America.

And in case you don’t already know, fun fact! Chardonnay has its very own holiday. May 21 is celebrated every year as International Chardonnay Day.

Chardonnay has complex flavors and aroma, and this is because of the involvement of oak barrels when the wine is made and when it is in the aging process. The barrels  impart dough-like, biscuity flavors. Malolactic fermentation, which is used in making Chardonnay, also brings out a “buttery” aroma with its notes of vanilla, smoke, and sweet spices such as clove and cinnamon.

The process of Malolactic Fermentation turns malic acid to lactic acid, which is found in milk, and makes the wine feel creamier and smoother.

Aside from these buttery flavors, there is also a wide range of fruity flavors in Chardonnay. Tropical fruits like banana, melon, guava, and pineapple can be tasted, as well as apricot, peach, apple, and nectarine.  Others can also have hints of lemon zest, celery, honeysuckle, and apple blossom. The fruit flavors vary from one Chardonnay wine to another, depending on the climate in which the wine is made. For example, places with warmer climates such as California, Chile, and Australia produce tropical fruit flavors, while cooler regions produce peachy flavors. The coolest regions create Chardonnay wines that are more on the green apple side of aromas.

Oaked vs Unoaked Chardonnay

When buying white wine, you will encounter the terms oaked and unoaked. An oaked Chardonnay simply means that it is stored in an oak barrel for a long period of time, and therefore, its flavor is largely influenced by it. This is the product of an extended process of Malolactic Fermentation. This creates a white wine that has more of a vanilla and buttery flavor.

An unoaked Chardonnay will taste more fruity. As mentioned above, it can have a wide, complex range of fruity flavors like banana, lemon, and apple.

California Chardonnay has gained quite a bad reputation for being over-oaked, resulting in white wine that were known as liquid butter. Thanks to the mass producers of the wine, many wine enthusiasts were turned off of Chardonnay because of this.

Over-oaking is bad practice, and has since been avoided by winemakers worldwide. However, cheap Chardonnay wines are still more likely to be over-oaked.

Is Chardonnay a Dry Wine?

While Chardonnay is famous for producing dry, white wines, there is a lot of variety in its production as well. It comes in varying levels of sweetness, acidity, and texture. There are regions in the world, like Canada, that produce sweet Chardonnay. So to answer the question, no, Chardonnay is not strictly a dry wine.

Dry Chardonnay wines include Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay from Kendall-Jackson and Antiguas Reservas Chardonnay by Cousino Macul. Now, if you are looking for dessert wines, try Bernardus 2010 Chardonnay and Keller Estate La Cruz Vineyard Chardonnay.

What are the best dishes to pair with Chardonnay?

Chardonnay pairs the best with food among all types of white wine because it is not too acidic or heavy with tannins. It has a complex flavor, but not intense at all.

The best dishes to eat with a glass of Chardonnay are seafood dishes, especially raw ones such as sushi and sashimi. It also complements lobster, crab, and grilled fishes. You can also find that chicken and pork are great pairings, with a variety of cheeses (especially soft cheeses like Brie), because of its natural acidity. Asparagus, almonds, white mushrooms, and zucchini also pair well with Chardonnay.

Chardonnay Serving Temperature

Is it better to serve Chardonnay chilled or at room temperature? One common mistake made by Chardonnay enthusiasts is serving it at the wrong temperature. Many drinkers tend to serve Chardonnay in a temperature too low that it’s over-chilled. Sure, it is more refreshing this way, but in turn, it masks the flavors and bouquets of the white wine. When drank too warm, however, the wine will taste too alcoholic and thick.

Served at the temperature that complements the wine, the fruit in it will be more prevalent, the tannins will be softer, and the flavors of the wine will be more apparent and more intense. Simply put, serving any wine at its correct temperature will enhance its taste.

Full-bodied and more complex wines like oaked Chardonnay taste the best at 55 degrees Fahrenheit, mimicking the classic cellar temperature. To achieve this, put the white wine in your refrigerator an hour and a half before you intend to serve it, and then take it out 20 to 30 minutes before serving. Unoaked Chardonnay, on the other hand, is the best at 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit. Put your bottle of wine in the refrigerator for two hours before you intend to serve it, and then take it out 30 minutes before actually serving it.

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