Chardonnay is a white wine grape that can be all things to all white wine drinkers
Chardonnay is a white wine grape that can be all things to all white wine drinkers. Hailed for its versatility by some and reviled as an interloper by others, Chardonnay is truly an international grape that can produce incredibly unique and distinct wines in all different climates and soils. It can be a transparent showcase of terroir as easily as it can be a pièce de résistance for a talented winemaker wanting to showoff.
Chardonnay can produce dry wines as easily as it produces sweet wines. It can make still wine and it can make sparkling wine. It can taste of fresh green apples and minerals in one iteration and toasty vanilla and caramel in another. It can be lean and full of acidity as easily as it can be buttery and creamy.
The hand of the winemaker from Chablis and Champagne to Burgundy and out to Napa Valley and Australia is easily seen in the neutral Chardonnay grape. Its swift rise in popularity in the 1970s and 80s led to a backlash (A.B.C. "Anything But Chardonnay") in the 1990s and 2000s. Thankfully this sentiment has mellowed into a new era of diversity in style, with great examples being made all over the world. The best-made Chardonnays can be cellared for quite some time.
Typical notes range from green apple, citrus, and flint to tropical fruit, flowers, fig, hazelnut, vanilla, butterscotch, honey, or oak. This versatility and ease of cultivation has led to the demise of many indigenous grape varieties around the world that are more difficult to cultivate. This is why Chardonnay, like Cabernet Sauvignon, is sometimes called a "colonizer."