In honour of International Chardonnay Day today, we thought we’d take the opportunity to learn some more about this exquisite grape variety. An esteemed member of the ‘noble grape’ society, Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted grape varieties in the world at just over 210,000 hectares (520,000 acres). As such, it dominates a considerable proportion of the market.
Though its ancestral home is the Burgundy region of eastern France, Chardonnay grapes are now grown in almost every wine-producing region across the world. Due to its neutral character, Chardonnay is the ideal entry grape for new and developing regions. In fact, Chardonnay was actually the first-ever white to be produced by Witches Falls! Back when the winery looked a bit like this…
Chardonnay grapes yield well, ripen early, and provide fertile ground for a plethora of different winemaking techniques. Many of the flavours commonly associated with Chardonnay are actually a result of outside influences such as oaking and terroir (environmental factors). That is to say, Chardonnay’s are made in the cellar, not so much in the vineyard. Often when people like the taste of Chardonnay, it is actually the flavour of the oak, or the qualities of oak maturation that they are enjoying.
Its vast adaptability has meant that Chardonnay can be grown and commercially produced in warm climates like California, South Africa, and Australia, where it tends to take on more tropical flavours, such as banana and mango, and oak chips are often added to enhance that oaky flavour.
Chardonnay’s popularity peaked in the late 1980s when ultra-ripe, ultra-oaked, sunshine-yellow wines dominated the market. The voluptuous, buttery mouthfeel and almost-overpowering oak of 80s Chardonnays did eventually give way to a new big name in the wine world: Sauvignon Blanc. From this point on, heavily oaked, buttery whites began to decline in popularity in favour of unwooded wines with crisp, zesty notes.
So, what gives Chardonnay that iconic, buttery flavour? It’s largely down to a process called ‘malo-lactic fermentation’ (MLF). MLF converts malic acid, a naturally tart substance that occurs in grape must, to a much softer-tasting lactic acid. Usually a secondary process performed after primary fermentation, MLF is standard in most red wine production. When used on white grapes (most commonly Chardonnay), a byproduct called ‘diacetyl’ imparts that splendid buttery flavour.
Soft, Buttery, and Golden. The Wild Ferment Chardonnay is the gentle giant of our wooded whites. Until midnight tomorrow (Friday 22nd May) receive 15% off a 6-pack of our Wild Ferment Chardonnay!