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3 things to know about chardonnay, the world’s most popular white wine

  1. Winemakers love chardonnay because it is easy to grow. And since its flavors are not as distinctive as other varieties such as riesling or sauvignon blanc, chardonnay has a “blank canvas” aspect that allows winemakers to flex their technique and leave their own imprint on the wine.

  2. Fermenting the wine in barrels gives added tannin and structure, as well as some flavors of toast and spice, such as clove, vanilla or nutmeg. New barrels impart more of these flavors to the wine, while aging in older barrels gives texture. A generation of U.S. wine drinkers was introduced to chardonnay fermented and aged completely in new barrels, and we came to identify those flavors with the wine rather than the barrel. Today, winemakers tend to ferment only a portion of the wine in new oak, reusing older barrels for the rest. That results in a more balanced wine and saves money on expensive barrels. 

  3. That blank canvas aspect means chardonnay is a good mirror of its climate and location — the mysterious quality wine lovers call terroir. In warmer climes, it can taste tropical (pineapple, mango), while cooler settings match the grape’s refreshing acidity with flavors of orchard fruit like peaches and apricots. The winemaker’s art is to capture that expression without obscuring it with too much oak or other techniques.

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