By Lisa Rowlands

A relatively high yielding and early ripening variety, Chardonnay is favoured by producers around the world for its ease of cultivation, ability to adapt to climatic change and its established reputation for producing fine wines. The variety does however face a few viticultural hazards which are largely overcome by the forethought and creativity of the grower. Notably, its highly vigorous nature means that it requires careful canopy management and intensive pruning, and the tendency of the vine to bud early can leave it susceptible to frosts in cooler climates.

Considered a fairly neutral variety, the complex aromas of Chardonnay can be attributed to the climate in which it is grown, the type of fermentation favoured by the winemaker and the presence or absence of oak in the maturation process. In warmer regions, Chardonnay delivers examples with tropical fruit notes whereas cooler conditions produce wines with subtle aromas of green apple and quince. Malolactic fermentation creates a smoother wine and enhances the buttery flavours synonymous with this variety.

Perhaps most famous for its dry, still white wines, the Chardonnay grape can be vinified in a wide spectrum of styles and at every quality level and price point; it is also a key variety in the production of Champagne. Still prominent in its Burgundy homeland, the most acclaimed examples of Chardonnay hail from the chalk, clay and limestone soils of this French region, where it yields both intensely rich, oak-aged Grand Crus and crisp, minerally wines with a brisk acidity. High-quality Chardonnays with broad international appeal are also produced in Italy, the USA (most notably in California), Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, with the taste profile of each a reflection of its unique terroir.