Chardonnay: The Varietal for Every Consumer

Breakthru Beverage Chardonnay study
Image: Breakthru Beverage Group

It’s hard to find a wine varietal that everyone can agree on – some consumers prefer citrusy, light-bodied wines, others favor creamy, medium-bodied; some choose acidic, others fancy sweet. With so many tastes, how is it possible to satisfy all consumers? The answer: Chardonnay.

Chardonnay is the most diverse white wine grape in the world. So diverse that winemakers often refer to this grape as the “blank slate” due to the ability to influence its flavor profiles and mouthfeel so distinctly. The two main factors affecting the final product are terroir and the winemaking techniques used.

In addition to the grape’s versatility, Chardonnay is not a fickle grape. Meaning it can be grown essentially anywhere, which is quite untrue of most grape varietals. It’s no surprise then that Chardonnay is one of the most planted white wine grapes in the world. Chardonnay is particularly popular in America, where it is the largest varietal in the U.S., accounting for 20% of case volume.

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While all categories of Chardonnay show positive growth, according to Nielsen, the ultra-premium tier is up 10.7% over the last year. Domestic California Chardonnay shows positive growth as well with +2.1%, but the true outlier is Oregon Chardonnay, which is up +127% over last year.

According to wine industry experts, Chardonnay is the next big thing in Oregon wine. What is it that differentiates an Oregon Chardonnay from a White Burgundy? This goes back to the terroir and how each winemaker approaches his or her product. 

Cool Climate Chardonnay
Notable Regions: Chablis, Willamette Valley, Marlborough
Characteristics: Green fruit such as apple and pear, with citrus and occasional vegetable notes like cucumber; higher acidity 

Moderate Climate Chardonnay
Notable Regions: Burgundy, Carneros
Characteristics: White stone fruit such as peach, with citrus notes and hints of melon

Hot Climate Chardonnay
Notable Regions: Napa Valley
Characteristics: Tropical fruit notes like peach, banana, pineapple, mango and fig

Unoaked versus Oaked
When aged in oak barrels, or undergoing some form of oak treatment, Chardonnay can reveal flavors of toast, vanilla and coconut.

Buttery Chardonnay
Chardonnays that have a buttery mouthfeel have undergone malolactic fermentation, which is a process that is used to turn harsh acids into soft acids. A creamy mouthfeel can also result from stirring the lees, or dead yeast cells, through the wine. 

There truly is a Chardonnay for every consumer. Knowing where the Chardonnay comes from can help distinguish which bottle will be right for which person. Talk to your Breakthru Sales Consultant today about our Chardonnay portfolio. 

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