The Chardonnay variety has its origin in the Saône-et-Loire French department (between Lyon and Dijon). It has an early budding and ripening so it risks being damaged by spring frosts. It is a very productive variety, easy to grow and well adapted to clay-limestone or calcareous-clay soils. Chardonnay grape is very sensitive to powdery mildew, to grapevine yellows and millerandage. Its skin is relatively thin so it can also be damaged by botrytis cinerea (noble rot) in rainy years.
Chardonnay, loved by many and hated by some, is one of the most versatile varieties. Though it does not have a dominant flavour, it can provide a wide aroma range depending on the region where it is grown and the elaboration methods. Albeit grapes generally reach proportionately high sugar levels, Chardonnay wines can be thin and evoke the fresh effect of Sauvignon Blanc wines in cold climates such as Chablis. Still, whatever the style and different tendencies in Chardonnay wines, it has proved its good adaptability to different winemaking procedures such as malolactic fermentation, lees stirring and barrel fermentation and ageing.
Style range extends from subtle wines with a salty component to rich, spiced wines. Good examples of sweet white botrytized wines at the Mâcon and Burgenland appellations.
At the end of the 20th century, Chardonnay became queen variety in North-America and Australia, and its popularity amongst consumers turned Chardonnay wine into an equivalent term for white wine. Nonetheless on the first decade of the 21st century it lost the interest of wine consumers being replaced by Pinot Grigio variety; with the climate change, Chardonnay wines started showing premature oxidation symptoms.
In France, Chardonnay is the second most grown variety after the Ugni Blanc one, used in Cognac and Armagnac production. The zones where Chardonnay variety is prevailing are Burgundy, Languedoc-Roussillon and Champagne.
Chablis wines are easy to drink and long-living when the grape has been grown in kimmeridgean calcareous-clay soil. Wine is distinguishable for its purity, well-defined and remarkably high acidity.
Though Côte d'Or department is the place to find the best Chardonnay examples, it is at Côte Chalonnaise where more Chardonnay plantations exist, but those wines do not reach the density and tension its neighbours at Côte d'Or have.
Champagne is the region with more hectares of Chardonnay grows from all France, particularly at the Marne department. Champagne wines tend to display yellow citric and pastry aromas, especially after long bottle ageing.