Chardonnay. A very hard variety to put in a nutshell. Most Sauvignon Blanc, for example, have some level of herbacousness. Most Riesling have a lime-citrus element. And most Pinot Gris a pear quality. But if you were to chose just one word to pigeonhole Chardonnay it’d be really tough. Chameleon might be the only one. Which isn’t really helpful.

Not only does it not have a distinct primary fruit character it also comes in a broad variety of styles and the full gamut of wine making influences. There’s the lean, crisp, unoaked styles of AC level Chablis and the rich, ripe, buttery, oaked styles of California and everything in between.

I think the important thing when identifying chardonnay in a blind tasting is to put it into context. It makes the arguments more logical and more authoritative. Saying something like peach and pineapple aromas with buttered toast and soft round palate typical of Chardonnay, isn’t really a strong argument. It suggest you think all Chardonnay tastes like this. When we know Chablis doesn’t have those ripe tropical aromas or that new oak influence. Nor do the flinty, sulphide driven modern styles of Australian Chardonnay.

Its much better to argue peach and pineapple aromas with buttered toast and soft round palate typical of oaked Chardonnay from a warm sunny climate. Or, at the other end of the scale, you could say Citrus and green apple character with brisk acid and lean palate consistent with unoaked Chardonnay from a cool climate. Putting into context like this shows greater mastery of knowing why wines taste the way they do.

For more about Chardonnay, check out 10 pointers for Chardonnay

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