9 things to know about Chardonnay
Called "the red wine of whites", Chardonnay is complex, versatile, and great to pair with a variety of recipes. Read on for the lowdown on the world's most popular white wine.
1. FRENCH CHARDONNAY IS CALLED WHITE BURGUNDY
The grape originated in Burgundy in eastern France and although the region makes wines from other white grapes, Chardonnay is the one that fully represents the unique terroir of this world-famous wine region.
2. NOT ALL CHARDONNAY IS WOODED
If oaked Chardonnay isn't your thing – not everyone loves the flavours of vanilla and oak from the barrels in which the wine is fermented – try an unoaked Chardonnay instead. For a crisper, fresher Chardonnay, pick a younger, cool-climate wine.
3. YOU CAN DRINK CHARDONNAY WITH STEAK
If you have a big, rich Chardonnay, light a braai and throw on a few steaks. The acidity of the wine will cut through the fat of the meat, working in much the same way as the tannins in red wine. Plus, a mouthful of chilled wine contrasts beautifully with the sizzling, slightly charred meat.
4. BLANC DE BLANCS CAP CLASSIQUE IS 100% CHARDONNAY
Along with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay is one of the three classic grapes used to make Cap Classique (South African sparkling wine made according to the traditional Champagne method). A Blanc de Blancs Cap Classique is made from Chardonnay grapes only.
5. MOST CHARDONNAY IS "BUTTERY"
The buttery flavour and texture of many Chardonnays is the result of the secondary malolactic fermentation process. (Nearly all red wines undergo "malo", but Chardonnay is one of the few whites that does.) If the winemaker lets it take place, tart-tasting malic acid, which is naturally present in grape must, converts to softer-tasting lactic acid, and the wine gains a characteristic buttery flavour. If this process doesn't happen, the Chardonnay will be more tart and crisp.
6. CHARDONNAY IS THE WORLD'S FAVOURITE WHITE WINE
While Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted white grape in South Africa, Chardonnay is the top white in the rest of the wine-loving world. Winemakers like working with it because it's easy to grow and work with in the cellar. Its flavours are milder than those of other grapes, such as Sauvignon Blanc. This gives winemakers the chance to leave their own signature on the wine, including through barrel fermentation and malolactic fermentation.
7. CHARDONNAY EXPRESSES TERROIR
The climate, soil and other environmental influences of a particular farm or region are well-reflected in Chardonnay. Warm-climate wines will reflect more tropical flavours, from pineapple to mango, while cool-climate Chardonnays tend to show more citrus flavours and mineral character.
8. CHARDONNAY SHOULDN'T BE SERVED TOO COLD
The complex flavours and aromas of Chardonnay become muted if the bottle is too chilled. Experts recommend that, like many red wines, Chardonnay should be chilled to between 10”C an 15°C to bring out its best qualities in the glass.
9. SOUTH AFRICA MAKES TOP-QUALITY CHARDONNAYS
Great Chardonnay can be found across the price spectrum, ranging from Woolies' unwooded House Chardonnay, to Springfield Wild Yeast Chardonnay and our exclusive Signature Chardonnay. Part of our Signature wine range, it's made by Danie de Wet at the award-winning De Wetshof in Robertson and is a true reflection of the limestone and clay soils of the estate's vineyards.