If you’ve ever purchased Chardonnay from more than one winery, you’ve probably noticed that no two bottles are exactly the same. The colors, flavor profiles, and acidity can vary greatly. But why is that? While some of it comes down to the winemaking process, a lot of the flavors you are picking up have to do with the region and climate where the chardonnay was produced. We’ve asked our Southeast Regional Manager and Level 2 Sommelier, Garrett Boles, to guest blog for us and explain the best climates for growing chardonnay grapes!
When considering climates for wine cultivation as a wine professional, I put wine into three general climate categories: cool, moderate, and warm. Each of these general climates is a powerful influencer in the finished wine. For example, Chardonnay from a warmer climate will exhibit ripe, tropical fruits, and muted levels of acidity. While Chardonnay grown in a cooler climate will produce tart, citrus fruits that are aromatic with distinguished acid levels.
Chardonnay is the most well-known white wine in the world. With all this popularity, it is widely planted in an array of different climates. Not only is it grown in most regions of the wine world, the style that each region produces has its own fan base. Beyond where the grape is grown, ultimately individual winemakers’ styles influence the final juice produced. Naming the “best” climate for Chardonnay is impossible without strong debate. However, most will agree that Chardonnay’s home is in Burgundy.
Famous Chardonnay Regions
Burgundy’s prominent white grape is Chardonnay. The most famous villages known for producing Chardonnay are Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne- Montrachet, and Meursault. These villages have the enchanting combination of kimmeridgian soil, climate, and history to produce some of the most renown chardonnays in the world. Recognized for their ageability, complexity, and balance these wines may be tagged with a higher price than most Chardonnay, but I encourage you to make the investment to explore white burgundy.
We cannot proceed from Burgundy without touching on Chablis. Chablis is the most northern region of Burgundy, closer to Champagne, which is another spectacular region for Chardonnay. The cool climate, chalky soils, and limited oak usage produce a vibrant and crisp Chardonnay, full of underripe tree fruits such as pears, apples, and lemons. The minerality of Chablis makes a perfect pairing with sweet kutomoto oysters.
If Burgundy’s cool climate is the home of Chardonnay, then California’s warmer climate is Chardonnay’s guest house. California is currently producing some of the most popular Chardonnays in the world. California’s climate varies greatly, but pockets have been delivering world-class chardonnay for many years. California as a whole is much warmer than northern France, however, the cooling mixture of early morning fog, coastal breeze, and vast diurnal shifts have allowed Chardonnay to flourish. For the best examples of California Chardonnay, look for regions including the Russian River Valley, Carneros, and Santa Maria Valley.
It Comes Down to Personal Preference
Finding the best region for Chardonnay truly depends on what you desire. Keep in mind, if the region is cooler, expect elevated acidity and tart, underripe fruit. If the climate is warmer, suspect overripe, tropical fruits with softer acidity. Have fun exploring this popular varietal, and remember, where it grows matters. Based on what I desire, the region I am most excited about is Willamette Valley Chardonnay in Northern Oregon. Jory soil, high elevation plantings, cooler climate, and responsible oak usage gives this region remarkable balance and quality.
If you want to try an incredible California Chardonnay, order our Carneros Reserve Chardonnay and pay attention to the tropical fruit notes, balanced acidity, and smooth oak finish as you sip it.