What Is Chardonnay?

What Is Chardonnay?

Mcguigan 2019 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay

What is Chardonnay?

If you’re new to the world of Chardonnay, it’s easy to get caught up in its polarising reputation.

Devoted Chardonnay enthusiasts can’t get enough of this heavy, opulent white wine known for its buttery, vanilla-laden flavours. But for other white wine lovers, Chardonnay’s characteristics are, in many ways, the direct opposite of the light, fresh and zingy flavours you would expect from other popular varietals like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris or Riesling.

The truth is Chardonnay is loved all over the world. And it’s still the most popular and widely-planted white wine varietal internationally. But Chardonnay’s ability to grow in almost every winemaking country means the wines can taste wildly different, depending on the specific terroir of the region.

The secret to selecting the perfect Chardonnay comes down to understanding where the wine was produced as well as the fermentation and ageing process — these factors all have a big influence on the resulting style and flavour profiles.

For example, cooler climates produce Chardonnay that is lighter in body and more acidic, while warmer climates traditionally produce big, bold and buttery Chardonnays.

Similarly, Chardonnay that has been aged in oak barrels will be rich, intense and creamy — especially if it’s been through the process of malolactic fermentation; while unoaked Chardonnay can be a little more fruit-forward and minerally.

To help you appreciate and love Chardonnay as much as we do, we’ve pulled together the below guide to help you select the perfect bottle for your taste.


Where are the most Chardonnay grapes grown?

First grown in the village of Chardonnay in the Burgundy region of France, Chardonnay grapes were a cross between the Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc varieties.

In Australia, Chardonnay is the second-highest planted grape variety (behind Shiraz). The vines were first brought into Mudgee from Burgundy by John Macarthur in 1817. Due to its disease resistance, hardy nature and early ripening, Chardonnay has continued to flourish two centuries later.

Other famous wine regions include California and Oregon in the United States, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand.

Chardonnay is also the major grape varietal used in Champagne; if you see ‘blanc de blancs’ on a Champagne label, it’s likely to be made from all Chardonnay grapes.


What does Chardonnay taste like?

Chardonnay is a crisp and usually dry (non-sweet) white wine. Being a very neutral-flavoured grape, many of Chardonnay’s flavours come from the terroir (the climate, soils and aspect) and the influence of the oak it may have aged in.

Chardonnay’s tasting notes include fruit flavours ranging from crisp green apple right through to riper stone fruit and tropical fruit like peaches, pineapple and melon. Oak ageing of Chardonnay results in full-bodied texture with secondary flavours of toast, cream, vanilla, and butter.

McGuigan’s range of Chardonnay wines delivers a bright medium-to-full-bodied crisp and clean finish on the palate, making them a popular choice among wine lovers.

We recommend you try:

2019 McGuigan Personal Reserve Hunter Ridge Chardonnay

Grown in the unprecedented dry conditions of 2019 and ripening early during the hottest summer on record, this is a bright, medium-bodied Chardonnay with fresh acidity, good length and persistence. White peach and citrus flavours dominate the palate. Chablis in style.

2021 McGuigan Mastercraft Chardonnay

A medium bodied Chardonnay that displays flavours of melon and citrus, with underlying toasty aromas from maturation in French oak. A luscious creamy palate with crisp acidity.


What’s the difference between unoaked and oaked Chardonnay?

Wine matured in oak barrels undergoes a process known as malolactic fermentation — the malic acid in the fruit changes to lactic acid, which is found in dairy — changing from tangy and bright to creamy, the texture of milk. Hence the wine’s buttery texture. Taking on the tannins from the oak, the wine, though retaining fruitiness, can have a buttery, caramel or butterscotch flavour with woody and vanilla notes.

In contrast, Chardonnays fermented and stored in stainless steel like other white wines will be crisp, bright and citrusy — not too dissimilar from Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.

Oaking in barrels results in a richer and more full-bodied wine.


What Australian wine regions make the best Chardonnay?

Being such an adaptable grape, Australian Chardonnay differs from region to region. Warm climate Chardonnays are lavish and ripe with a mouth-filling, rounded structure and flavours and aromas of peach, fig and melon. However, in cooler climates, the wine’s structure is tighter and leaner, with flavours of lemon, grapefruit and green apple.

  • Hunter Valley, New South Wales: Over the last 15 years, Chardonnay produced in the warm and humid climate of the Hunter Valley has soared. Hunter Chardonnay’s white peach and citrus flavours, with a slatey acid.
  • Margaret River, Western Australia: This warm maritime climate produces Chardonnay with lemon sherbert, cut pear and fig flavours.
  • Adelaide Hills, South Australia: The cool dry summers here produce a complex, elegant, refined and crisp Chardonnay with good acidity levels. The cool climate means the grapes are slower to mature, contributing to complexity and longevity. These wines have crisp citrus, lemon and green apple characteristics.
  • Coonawarra, South Australia: A maritime climate with dry summer heat and freezing winters produces Chardonnay grapes from which our McGuigan’s Zero Chardonnay is made.
  • Yarra Valley, Victoria: Chardonnay is the most widely planted grape variety in the Yarra Valley, producing complex to elegant, restrained styles with distinctive white peach and fig flavours.
  • Mornington Peninsula, Victoria: These Chardonnays are youthful, with lively acidity and pristine flavours of melon, citrus, peach, pear and nectarine.
  • Tasmania: Tasmania is one of Australia’s coolest wine regions, producing lean and zesty Chardonnay with high acidity. Depending on the warmth of the particular year and the winemaker’s style, it can be intensely fruity and unwooded, or soft, creamy and rich.


How do you serve Chardonnay? Can it be chilled?

Chilling Chardonnay enhances the wine’s lovely aromas, flavour and acidity. However, ice cold temperatures will diminish its flavours.

Preserve the crisp, bright flavours and acidity of unoaked Chardonnay by chilling to 10-13 degrees Celsius. Bring out the richness and texture of oaked Chardonnays by chilling to 10-15 degrees Celsius.

To serve, use a standard white wine or sparkling wine glass — the smaller bowl allows you to capture and appreciate the wonderful aromas, while the longer stem protects the wine from warming.


What foods pair best with Chardonnay?

Chardonnay is a very food-friendly wine due to its wide range of flavours. But it’s especially good with white meats, seafood and vegetables.

Oaked Chardonnay: Pair with rich dishes such as lobster mornay, grilled salmon, roast chicken, mushroom risotto and vegetable-based pasta dishes. Fruity, citrusy desserts will enhance the toasty and buttery notes. It’s also excellent to have with semi-hard cheeses.

Unoaked Chardonnay: Its crisp notes make it a fantastic match for shellfish, sushi, chicken salad or a charcuterie board. Dessert can include fresh fruit, zesty lemon cheesecake, fruity tarts and puddings. Go for mild, creamy cheeses, like brie, camembert and mozzarella.

Mcguigan zero chardonnay

Which Chardonnays have the lowest alcohol content?

Chardonnay’s alcohol content can range between 13.5%-15% ABV depending on the region it’s grown and produced.

To accommodate the growing number of mindful drinkers, McGuigan now has a rich and flavourful alcohol-free Chardonnay grown and produced in Coonawarra, South Australia. You’ll love the alluring aroma of white peach in McGuigan Zero Chardonnay . The subtle influence of vanilla and oak also perfectly balances the fresh and toasty oak characters of stone fruit and honey melon.

Whether you are dining with friends at the end of a summer’s day or relaxing with a movie and a delicious plate of pasta, a quality glass of McGuigan’s Chardonnay is always a great choice.

Shop our Chardonnays and all the white wines in our range below.