I’ve Got the Marvin Gaye-But Which Chardonnay?

ow most of us didn’t need a hit song to tell us that Chardonnay can be a perfect compliment to any special evening.

Chardonnay is crisp and high in acid which allows it to pair wonderfully with a variety of appetizers and entrees.

Chardonnay is a hearty grape and is grown in most wine making regions around the world. It is used to produce some of the finest champagnes and sparkling wines and is known to be a versatile still wine. 

It is this versatility that makes it an ideal choice for entertaining whether you’re planning a date night or an intimate dinner party. 

So with such a diverse wine, how do you choose the Chardonnay that is right for you and your occasion? 


As a still wine, the character and quality of the Chardonnay are greatly influenced by the region in which the grape is grown (terroir) and the choices of the winemaker during the fermentation process. 

When malolactic fermentation (ML) is allowed, the Chardonnay develops creamy and buttery aromas. These aromas are quite distinct and can easily be detected. The other key choice and possibly the bigger choice to be made in the fermentation of Chardonnay is whether or not the winemaker uses oak. 

When Chardonnay is fermented using oak, beautiful butterscotch, toast and vanilla flavors are present while unoaked Chardonnay has more presence of terroir-without oak, more fruit flavors are recognized. Flavors of nectarine, apple, peaches and pineapple are often found in unoaked or naked Chardonnay.

So, when you’re preparing for that perfect date or dinner party, think about what flavors will compliment the evening you have planned before you turn up the jams.

If you are looking for something with that toasty butterscotch flavor, you want an oaked Chardonnay. If you want a Chardonnay that is more fruit forward with a greater sense of terroir, you want unoaked.

Sometimes, it states clearly on the label whether the Chardonnay is oaked or naked, but if you are ever unsure, the attendant at the wine shop should be able to point you in the right direction. 

It is also important to note that Chardonnay can sometimes be on the high end of the spectrum in terms of alcohol content topping off at 14.5 percent alcohol so drink responsibly.

Enjoy your Chardonnay!

Megan Pouncy

Certified Sommelier 

Founder / Vino Dream

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