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When it comes to white wine, Chardonnay is big, big, big the world over. It's probably the most talked about grape on the planet and there's hardly a wine region in the world where it isn't grown. Chardonnay also has an upper hand on most other grapes, as it is one of three grapes which can be used to make Champagne.
There are several distinct styles of Chardonnay - including oaked and unoaked. This often causes confusion amongst wine drinkers who don't realize that both types taste completely different. In Chablis, in Northern Burgundy, the wines are mostly unoaked and are clean, crisp and minerally, whilst just down the road in the Cote de Beaune, still in Burgundy, the style is for big, buttery, creamy and oaky wines. Both types of Chardonnay can command very high prices but are very different wines.
Heavily oaked styles from across the water in Australia and America became a tour de force in the 1980's and flooded the market. They peaked in popularity after people became sick of rich buttery woody wine in favour of more austere styles like Sauvignon. New World makers today produce a variety of styles, ranging from lightly-oaked or non-oaked to rich fat oaky food wines. Chardonnay is also a key grape in the Champagne growing region.
Chardonnay is probably the most versatile grape on the planet and this has helped lead to its popularity today. It can be moulded into a huge variety of styles and is an absolute gem for even the laziest of winemakers. Chardonnay doesn't taste of much, being a "neutral" grape, but does what it's told, so tastes of where it is grown and how it was treated. So whether you like your wine oaked, unoaked, full or light bodied, from the Old Word or New, you are certain to come across a Chardonnay that will be to your liking.
Chardonnay is a great match for food. Oaky Chardonnay works well with chicken where the oak enhances the creaminess of the meat, while unoaked and lighter versions taste good with fish, chicken salad, or, simply, as an aperitif.
Chardonnay is well known for producing Chablis. Yes, you'll get exceptional quality wine from this part of the world but you'll pay a premium for the label. If you fancy a cheaper alternative while keeping much of the taste, look to some less famous French regions or to the New World, especially Chile, which produces mouth watering, fruity and clean Chardonnay. Alternatively, if you prefer a more tropical fruity style, try South Africa and New Zealand.
Anything But Chardonnay (ABC) is a term that's come about in the last few years by wine drinkers who've become fed up with the grape. But in our view, Chardonnay isn't boring. Anything but. It's one of the most versatile and interesting grapes around, and makes everything from everyday drinking wine to some of the world's most exclusive and prestigious whites.