The Chardonnay Taste Profile is made up of a unique combination of color, flavors, aromas, and structure. These elements are referred to as wine characteristics. Chardonnay becomes a bit more complex than the other Noble Grapes because it basically has 2 taste profiles. One for cool climates and one for warm climates. At the same time, it still has hallmark characteristics that will help you identify the wine by sight, smell and taste.
Each type of wine grape develops a unique combination of flavors and aromas. These flavors and aromas are influenced by things like their growing environment (climate and soil – aka terroir), the fermentation process (aka yeast converting sugar to alcohol), and maturation (such as aging in oak barrels).
The overall taste profile of Chardonnay is influenced by the maturation process used. In cool climates it is matured in stainless steel tanks as you’ll find in Chablis and in most of the Chardonnay from Burgundy, France. In warm climates, it’s matured in oak barrels as you’ll find in California. Oak aging creates a deeper color and a creamier, rounder, fuller taste to the Chardonnay than the stainless steel version.
The color for white wine ranges from Pale Straw to Medium Straw to Deep Gold. Wine that has a pale straw color is from cooler regions. Wine with a deep gold color is from warmer regions, has been aged in oak, and/or is older wine.
Chardonnay Wine Color: Medium straw to Deep gold.
The color for chardonnay depends on whether it was matured in oak barrels (oaked) or in stainless steel tanks (unoaked). The oak aging adds color to any wine. Chardonnay with a deep gold color has been aged in oak barrels.
Flavors & Aromas
Look for Fruit, Floral, Herbal, and Spice notes to identify flavors and aromas in wine.
Fruit: White wines come in a range with cool-climate wines showing more citric notes (lemon, lime, green apple, pear), to mid-range of stone fruits (peach, apricot), to warm-climate wines exhibiting more tropical fruit notes (pineapple, banana).
Spice: Notes like vanilla and clove come from aging in oak. If you notice those spice notes in your Chardonnay, then it has matured in oak barrels. If your Chardonnay doesn’t have those notes, then it has been aged in stainless steel tanks.
Chardonnay Flavors & Aromas: (cool climate) Citrus notes of apple and lemon. (warm climate) Stone fruit notes of peach and tropical notes of pineapple and banana.
Wine structure is a combination of acidity (that sour, pucker sensation), sweetness levels, tannin (that bitter taste and drying sensation), alcohol levels (abv: alcohol by volume), and body (the heaviness of the wine — think skim milk vs whole milk).
Chardonnay Wine Structure:
Cool climate – high acidity, dry, no tannin, 12.5-13.5% abv, light to medium body.
Warm climate – medium acidity, dry, no tannin, 13.5-14.5% abv, medium to full body.
Hallmarks of Chardonnay Taste Profile
The typical profile of cool climate, unoaked Chardonnay is high acidity, dry, and light to medium body with citrus and apple notes.
The typical profile of warm climate, oaked Chardonnay is medium acidity, dry, medium to full body with peach and pineapple notes along with vanilla and clove notes.
Look for Chardonnay from these top regions:
Cool Climate, unoaked:
- Chablis, France – Labeled as Chablis (Chardonnay classified as Chablis is unoaked, while Premier Cru Chablis is sometimes in oak, and Grand Cru Chablis is commonly aged in oak).
- Burgundy, France – Labeled Bourgogne Blanc and Mâcon Villages (Usually unoaked).
- California – Russian River Valley region (part of Sonoma Coast). Labeled Chardonnay.
- Australia – Margaret River region. Labeled Chardonnay.
Warm Climate, oaked:
- France – Côte de Beaune region in Burgundy. Labeled Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, and Chassagne-Montrachet.
- California – Napa Valley, Paso Robles, and Lake County regions. Labeled Chardonnay.
- Australia – Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Valley, and Adelaide Hills regions. Labeled Chardonnay.
Learn more about the history, top regions, wine recommendations, and pairings with this Chardonnay post.