In my last article we discussed some general differences between the Old World Wine vs New World Wine. Let’s explore how this can affect a particular grape, grown in two different regions of the world.
Chardonnay is considered one of the more neutral tasting grapes on its own. When vinified into a white wine, the flavors and textures you experience will vary greatly depending on both the land where it’s grown and the winemaking traditions associated with a particular region.
Chardonnay Wine from France
For example, the village of Chablis, in the region of Burgundy in north-central France, has an almost singular taste profile. The soil in Chablis is a mixture of Kimmeridgian clay and limestone, which results in the wines having a chalky mouth feel.
Also, Chablis doesn’t normally receive the amount of annual sunlight that other parts of France (particularly further south) receive. This results in higher acid levels in Chablis wines, and generally lower alcohol and a more delicate texture.
Chardonnay Wine from Napa Valley
Now compare the same Chardonnay grape that’s grown in the iconic wine region in California, Napa Valley. Since Napa is part of the New World, it is not subject to as many strict rules about wine harvesting and winemaking as a more traditional country such as France.
The techniques American winemakers are more comfortable using compared to Chablis include:
- Maloactic Fermentation: A conversion from malo to lactic acid, resulting in a creamier, milk-like texture.
- Aging in Oak Barrels vs. Stainless Steel tanks: Aging in tanks will play up the fruit components but oak aging can add flavors such as caramel, cinnamon, vanilla and many others, depending on the source of the oak and how long it has aged.
And since the Napa Valley has steadier, almost year round sunshine, this often results in riper grapes leading to more tropical notes in the final wine, as well as higher levels of alcohol.
Final Thoughts on Chardonnay Wine from Different Regions
Here’s an experiment you can do at home to experience the difference in flavors from various regions. Select two wines (same grape) from different regions and notice how the flavors and textures differ. Those subtle differences are due to the influence of the land where the grape is grown and the winemaking traditions. Knowing these difference will also help you selecting the wines you most prefer and your new knowledge gives you new talking topics to build rapport with those prospects and customers who enjoy wine!
Do you have a favorite Chardonnay wine? Does it come from one of these classic regions or another part of the world? Let’s hear about your favorites in the comments area below!