A versatile grape which stands up well to strong flavours, chardonnay is a match for fish, fowl and egg dishes
As it can cover such a wide range of flavours, chardonnay is incredibly versatile when it comes to food, though frustrating at the same time. A ‘glass of chardonnay’ requested in one restaurant can be totally different from one ordered in the next, which means you have to take different approaches on what to match with them.
In general though you can split chardonnay into the ripe luscious fruit led styles, mainly from the new world, the more classic, austere and steely bottles from the old world, and aged versions from both. The more luscious ripe styles, from the likes of Australia and California are robust enough to carry some fairly strong flavoured dishes. Most kinds of smoked fish can be too overpowering for other whites, but with a creamy, buttery, fairly oaky style of chardonnay they are the perfect match. Likewise with well flavoured birds such as guinea fowl or pheasant the acidity oaky and ripe fruit combination should work very well. Steelier styles of the old world classic chardonnay are much better as partners to unsmoked fish, perhaps monkfish or roasted red snapper, octopus Galician style as well as lobster or Cornish crab and good oysters (particularly if you go for an all-chardonnay – blancs de blancs – champagne with a little bit of age on it). Surprisingly enough you’ll also find chardonnay an exceptionally good match with lots of egg dishes, which is good for all those who need wine with their egg and cress sandwiches, or with a brunch kedgeree.
Aromas and flavours
This depends very much on origin. Old world- expect citrus domination with flinty mineral edges and the odd touch of white pepper, plus creamy oak nuances. New World- tropical fruit flavours, a touch of grapefruit and a little lime, plus a diverse range of creamy buttery, overtly oaky elements.
Melon, vanilla, key lime and even a little sweet liquorice.
Where to find it
There are few places on the planet that are untouched by chardonnay.
Good for wood
Finding an unsmoked chardonnay is not as difficult as it used to be, but most winemakers enamoured of chardonnay have a similar love affair with 100 percent of new French oak, which means it is wood all the way.
Chardonnay has had a varied career from the 19th century onwards, though grape scholars date is back much further, it still hasn’t shaken off its more historical moniker in Austria, which is Morillon.
Not a lot of people know this
There is a very rare pink version of the grape variety called Chardonna Rose.