There are few grapes as flexible as Chardonnay. It can make a classic wine almost everywhere it is planted. It takes well to oak, making a rich full bodied wine, or stainless steel, making a crisp light bodied wine. There is a style for everyone.

Quick Chardonnay Facts:

A.V.A. is the U.S. equivalent of the A.O.C. in France and D.O.C. of Italy. It stands for American Viticultural Area. It was first established in 1980 and it seeks to determine which grapes grow best in which areas. At present there are 125 AVA's in the U.S.

Strict laws govern all aspects of winemaking in France. In the U.S. the laws are much more relaxed allowing for more experimentation. But the offshoot of that is some very confusing labelling. Words like classic, barrel select, reserve, private reserve and special selection have no legal definition. They are most often used as marketing tools.

Burgundy is not a synonym for red wine, and chablis is not a synonym for white. Burgundy is a region in France that produces both red and white wines. The reds are predominantly pinot noir and the whites are predominantly chardonnay. Chablis is an area in Burgundy which produces some of the finest 100% chardonnay wine in the world.

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Click on the above link to return to the main wine and food page. There you will find a listing of twelve different varieties of wine and the menus specially chosen to create perfect pairings. Chardonnay is considered the greatest of the white wines. there is a style for every taste and almost every recipe. Click the black bars above each photo to view the recipes.
It seems that time and time again when we speak of a standard in terms of winemaking we speak of France. July's selection, Chardonnay, is no exception to this rule. In the careful hands of the French vintner this ubiquitous white grape becomes delicious Champagne and White Burgundy. France's grip on the Chardonnay grape was so tight that even in the sixties there was so little Chardonnay planted in California that it was listed in planting reports as one of the miscellaneous whites. At that time California was a wine producing upstart which usurped renowned European names (like Chablis and Burgundy) to label their cheap "jug" versions of white and red wine. In 1966 Robert Mondavi, seen by many as the father of quality American wines, opened his own winery and began the very non-European activity of labelling his wines by the grape variety. This was merely the first in what was to be a series of experimental and technological advances begun in California that were to be felt worldwide.
The road to respectability on the world wine stage was not always smooth for California. In 1831 Jean Louis Vignes brought the first cuttings of classic European vines to the west coast. The industry was then helped along by the Gold Rush of 1849 when the prospects of a quick fortune fueled expansion toward the Pacific. Most prospectors chose to remain in the fertile California climate where the land was cheap and farming was easy. One of the most popular of the early crops was grapes. European winemakers, recognizing the perfect conditions, began moving their operations to the Golden State bringing with them their centuries of tradition and know-how. By 1918 there were a whopping 700 wineries in California! The real blow to the American wine industry came in 1919 with the passage of Prohibition. Most wineries went out of business. The few that remained had to find loopholes that allowed them a flow, albeit slight, of cash. Beringer, Beaulieu, and the Christian Brothers survived these teetotalling times by producing sacrificial wine. Subsequent growth in the industry has been slow but sure. In the 1990's the number of California wineries finally surpassed the pre-Prohibition numbers.
Chardonnay is grown all over the world with varying success and styles. Chablis is the most northerly wine producing region of Burgundy. This cooler clime reveals the tart, acidic nature of the grape. 95% of all of the wine from this area is aged in stainless steel tanks. This method allows the winemaker to carefully control the temperature at which fermantation takes place. The resulting wine will be fruitier, but have none of the subtle nuances imparted to the wine by oak barrels. California leans toward a toastier, oaked style. The full-bodied Chardonnays from Napa and Sonoma may taste very smooth, even creamy. Australia, the other prominent producer of Chardonnay, has created a style all their own. Australians are world leaders in creative blends. Chardonnay is often paired with the softer and rounder Semillon grape. These wines are usually of high quality and reasonably priced.