Chardonnay is most-probably the most famous of all white wine grape varieties, and quite possibly the most beloved type of wine in the world.
Here are the Top 10 Fun & Interesting Facts you probably didn’t know about the all notorious Chardonnay that you should have in mind to impress friends with your wine knowledge.
As well as the Top Chardonnay Information summarized and described here, you will also find here detailed videos about the Top Facts if you favor listening to reading.
A Beginner’s Guide to Chardonnay – Video
1- A French Grape from Burgundy
The Chardonnay grape originates from France, and more precisely the Burgundy area.
It is in fact named after a village in Bourgogne that’s called Chardonnay the Romans called Cardonnacum (which translates into ‘the area of thistles’, Chardon being French for thistle too).
2- By order of the Queen
The historic legend in France goes that Chardonnay owes its popularity to the wife of Emperor Charlemagne who ordered that white wine grapes be planted in Burgundy because she was fed up with the red wine staining her husband’s beard while he was drinking!
3- An Aromatically-Neutral Grape
Chardonnay is a relatively neutral grape variety flavor-wise or aroma-wise.
Because it is also adaptable to many environments and can be grown everywhere, Chardonnay is somewhat of a blank canvas for winemakers to paint in any style they choose, and many paint it with a lot of oak and full malolactic fermentation in new oak which infused a lot of buttery and vanilla character to it. Hence Chardonnay often being associated with a rather heavy, oaky style full of rich tropical flavors.
But unoaked Chardonnay is in fact crisp, floral and elegant. This style is what’s made the suggest of the crisp and refined Chablis style Burgundy in particular.
4- Chardonnay sparkles everywhere…
Chardonnay is the grape variety behind pretty much all the white wines in Burgundy, including the most famous examples being from Chablis, Meursault, Puligny and Chassagne Montrachet, or Corton-Charlemagne as a Grand Cru.
But Chardonnay is also a major component in the whites of Champagne which generally often also include 2 red grapes in the blend together with Chardonnay, while the Blanc de Blancs Champagnes are made form 100% Chardonnay (and I made a full video about what are Blanc de Blancs and how they taste if you want to learn more about that).
Chardonnay is also commonly used in many sparkling wines all around the world, in the sparklings from California like from the Carneros (such as Domaine Carneros, link here for wine reviews) or the Anderson valley (Roederer estate), but also the English sparklings, many Crémants in France, Franciacorta in Italy, or even cava in Spain.
Virtually, only Prosecco wines never use any Chardonnay as far as sparkling wines are concerned!
5- People are named Chardonnay
Yes, Chardonnay is an actual given name.
In the United Kingdom, the name became fashionable due to the character Chardonnay Lane-Pascoe in the television series Footballers’ Wives that started broadcasting in 2002.
That year, in 2002, from virtually no one being named Chardonnay before, 65 baby girls were named Chardonnay in the UK.
To Continue learning, Watch the Top 5 Advanced Facts about Chardy in Video
Or continue reading further down below.
6- Top White Wine in the World
The Chardonnay grape is the most planted white wine grape variety worldwide. Although it’s the 8th most planted grape variety, and as a white grape, it comes as the 4th most planted in the world.
But the top 3 white grapes, is 1) Sultanina which is a table grape used for making raisins, 2) Ugni Blanc which is used to make brandy especially in France like in Cognac and Armagnac, 3) Airen which is used is Spain to make Brandy Like Jerez Brandy (or Sherry Brandy) so Chardonnay IS the most planted white grape used to make actual wine.
7- The Not-So-United Nations of Chardonnay
The top 3 Chardonnay-producing countries are France #1, of course, but very closely followed by the United States which have virtually just as much Chardonnay planted than France, then Australia.
But Chardonnay is planted virtually in every wine-producing country, the Top 10 Chardonnay-making nations also including, by descending order of vineyard surface area: Italy, Chile, South Africa, Spain, Argentina, Moldova and New Zealand.
Fun fact: In the early 1940s there were fewer than 100 acres of Chardonnay grapes grown in California. Now there are more than 100,000 acres.
8- More Chardonnay is produced in Burgundy than Pinot Noir
When we think Burgundy, we often think of red Pinot noir wines, perhaps because Burgundy is also the name of a color, the wine shade of red.
But in fact, Chardonnay represents about 60% of Burgundy’s wine output, compared to only about 30% for Pinot noir.
9- Some of the most expensive wines in the world
Of course, being the most planted white grape, there’s a lot of cheap, tasteless or ordinary Chardonnays out there down the shelves of every supermarket around the globe.
But don’t forget that Chardonnay also makes some of the most expensive wines in the world, with the top 5 most expensive Chardonnays ranging from $4000 a bottle to over $11000 a flask!.
Those are all Burgundy Grand Crus and include: Domaine Leflaive Montrachet, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet, Leroy Domaine d’Auvenay Chevalier-Montrachet, Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne, and Domaine Leroy Corton-Charlemagne
As for high-end 100% Chardonnay Champagnes, Krug’s Clos du Mesnil, a rare single vineyard, retails around $1200.
In the US, one of the most expensive Chardonnays is Marcassin Estate’s, which retails around $400.
10- The 1976 Judgment of Paris
Most remember mainly, from this historic event that “changed the wine landscape forever”, the results of the confrontation between the Napa Valley reds against Bordeaux.
But Stephen Spurrier’s Judgement of Paris tasting also included white wines made from Chardonnay in France versus California Chardonnays.
There were 6 Cali Chards contenders and 4 white Burgundies in the blind tasting lineup.
The 6 California Chardonnays came from what are now famous classic estates such Chalone Vineyard, Freemark Abbey, Veedercrest Vineyards, the David Bruce Winery or Spring Mountain Vineyard.
The 4 French white Burgundies were: Domaine Roulot, Maison Joseph Drouhin, Domaine Ramonet-Prudhon and Domaine Leflaive.
Of course, the winning Chardonnay was 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay (as was made famous by the Hollywood movie ‘Bottle Shock’) with the runner-up being the French 1973 Meursault Charmes Roulot.