Chardonnay Taste Profile

Image of Chardonnay grapes on grapevines.

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.

Unique Characteristics

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.

Color

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.

Color range for Chardonnay identifies cool climate Chardonnay as medium straw color and warm climate as deep gold color.

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.  

Chart depicting the Chardonnay flavors and aromas. Cool Climate has citrus fruits and warm climate Chardonnay has stone fruit and tropical fruit notes.

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

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).

Chart of Cool Climate Chardonnay taste structure showing that it's high acidity, dry, 12-13% abv, no tannin, and light to medium body.
Chart identifying warm climate Chardonnay taste structure as medium acidity, dry, 13-14% abv, no tannin, and medium to full body.

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
  • Burgundy, France – Labeled Bourgogne, Pouilly-Fuisse, Maconnais
  • California – Russian River Valley (part of Sonoma Coast) labeled Chardonnay
  • Australia – Margaret River labeled Chardonnay

Warm Climate, oaked:

  • Burgundy, France – Labeled Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet
  • California – Napa Valley, Paso Robles, Lake County labeled Chardonnay
  • Australia – Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills labeled Chardonnay

Learn more about the history, top regions, wine recommendations, and pairings with this Chardonnay post.



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