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Chardonnay Wine Varietal Definition

Chardonnay grapes

In the '80s it became de rigeur to ask for "a glass of Chardonnay" in a restaurant and passé to simply request "a glass of white wine." Chardonnay is the most popular wine in America for a reason: It's cold, fruity and easy to drink. It's pleasant with just about any dish involving cheese, eggs, fish or fowl. Winemakers have divided into two camps over the style of Chardonnay; one school of thought emphasizes the high-toned, steely, fruitlike qualities of the wine with little or no use of oak, while the other emphasizes barrel and malolactic fermentation in addition to the fruit characteristic, which lends the wine a rounder, buttery taste. Benchmarks for Chardonnay are (rich and extracted) white Burgundies and (steely and crisp) Chablis. There are fine Chardonnays from just about every region, including Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and New York.

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(Updated: 11/19/12 JLD)

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