Australian Chardonnay wine regional and flavour profile
WHITE | MEDIUM BODY | FULL BODY
Chardonnay tastes and aromas
Warm climate Chardonnay features apple, pineapple and melon and lemon. Cool Climate Chardonnay features green apple, lemon, lime and mineral notes
Warm climate Chardonnay is medium bodied, with low acidity and high alcohol.Cool climate Chardonnay has a higher acidity and an average alcohol content
Chardonnay cellaring potential
Chardonnay is one of the few white wines that can age for up to 20 years when made from high quality grapes, has balanced acidity, clever use of oak and experienced wine-making approach. In its age, it develops rich buttery characteristics, along with nutty kernel and caramel flavours.
Facts about Chardonnay
- Chardonnay is often regarded as the Queen of wine as it is planted in more wine regions across the world than any other grape. Its counterpart, Cabernet Sauvignon, is the King of wine.
- The Chardonnay grape variety has a rough reputation in Australia, with many mid and late life drinkers recalling the heavily oaked, over ripe, overly buttery and incredibly rich wines from before the 1990’s. Often wine drinkers would proudly claim their membership to the ABC club (Anything But Chardonnay). Since then, it has undergone a rags to riches transformation, when Australian winemakers refined their techniques and began to craft well made wines with tight fresh acidity, soft underlying fruit and just the right amount of oak to lift the other subtle elements of the grape.
- Chardonnay is usually matured in oak barrels and supposed to be consumed within three years of vintage, unless the winemaker has used higher quality grapes and oak.
- Chardonnay is one of three grapes used to create Champagne
- The Chardonnay grape itself is very neutral, and many of the flavours commonly associated with the wine are actually derived from its terrior and oak influence.
- Chardonnay fruit is easy to cultivate, adaptable to different conditions, and ripens early.
- Chardonnay is one of the white grapes that include a stage in winemaking called ‘malolactic fermentation’, which converts the green apple bite of malic acid into the softer, milky acidity of lactic acid. This process softens the character of the wine, giving it a creamy and sometimes buttery texture.
Australian regions that produce Chardonnay
Australian Chardonnay flavours and characteristics vary greatly depending on the climate and region it is grown in. In warm climates, flavours are lavish, ripe and uncomplicated and the structure is mouth filling and rounded. Flavours and aromas of peach, fig and melon are common in these wines. However, in the cooler climates, the wines structure is tighter and leaner, with flavours of lemon, grapefruit and green apple. The following warm and cool climate regions in Australia are renowned for their high quality Chardonnay.
The warm maritime climate of Margaret River produces a distinctive style of Chardonnay, best recognised by its dusty, lemon sherbet, cut pear, dried pear and fig flavours.
The cool spring and dry summer of Adelaide Hills creates a Chardonnay with complex but elegant, refined, mineral and crisp with good levels of acidity. The cool climate allows the fruit to mature slowly but fully, resulting in good levels of natural acidity, which contribute to the complexity, and longevity of the wine. The soil and temperature influences create more crisp citrus, lemon and green apple characteristics.
Chardonnay is the Yarra Valley’s most widely planted white grape variety producing a range of styles, from complex, oaked wines to elegant restrained styles. Yarra Valley provides distinctive fig and white peach flavours that are common to all Chardonnays from the region.
A true rival to the Yarra Valley Chardonnays, the Mornington Peninsula creates youthful, pristine flavours of melon, citrus, peach, pear and nectarine, with lively acidity.
One of the coolest regions in Australia, Tasmania’s maritime climate creates a lean, zesty chardonnay with high acidity common to cool climate regions. In its warmer years, the Chardonnay is intensely fruity and unwooded, or soft, creamy and rich, depending on the style of the winemaker.
Despite being more famous for its Sauvignon Blanc production, Chardonnay was New Zealand’s most widely planted grape variety from 1990 till 2002 when Sauvignon Blanc finally surpassed it. The east coast of the North Island, in places like Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa, have seen the most success with Chardonnay wine that has noticeable acidity and leanness. As better clonal varieties are discovered and planted, the overall quality of New Zealand Chardonnay have increased, particularly from places like Canterbury, Marlborough and Nelson. Some producers in the Gisborne region have recently developed a cult following for their Chardonnay among New Zealand wine drinkers. While many New Zealand winemakers are still developing a characteristic style, the Chardonnay produced so far have emphasized the grape’s affinity for oak.
Internationally, Chardonnay is grown in almost all wine growing regions around the world and is renowned for its ability to adapt to different climates. It originated in the Burgundy wine region of eastern France but is now grown wherever wine is produced.
What food to pair with Chardonnay
Because of Chardonnay’s incredibly diverse spectrum of flavours and characteristics (brought about by climate and winemaker influence), Chardonnay is considered to be one of the most food-friendly wines. Typically, Chardonnay pairs with white meats, seafood and vegetables well, however the style of chardonnay and food matchings is further broken down below.
Fruity, un-oaked or lightly oaked Chardonnays
Chardonnays with smooth, sometimes buttery textures with melon and peach flavours go well with slightly rich dishes where a degree of freshness in the wine is still welcome. White meats are a good match, with creamy sauces complementing the buttery-ness of the wine.
Full bodied, oak aged Chardonnays
Higher quality Chardonnays from Margaret River, Adelaide Hills and the Yarra Valley, that have been aged or barrel-fermented, can handle an extra degree of richness when pairing with food, and may go well with dishes like eggs benedict or steak béarnaise.
Mature barrel fermented Chardonnays
Chardonnay that has been aged for between 3-8 years old have a more creamy, sometimes nutty taste which call for finer, more delicate dishes that won’t swamp the flavour of the wine. Savoury dishes such as grilled or seared shellfish, roast chicken etc are a good match.