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The Astor Wines & Spirits Glossary

Chardonnay

From Champagne to Chablis, it's hard (not to mention unpleasant) to avoid this famous white variety. During a huge popularity surge beginning in the late 1980s, Chardonnay plantings have increased dramatically -- not only in California's wine country, with which the variety is nearly synonymous, but also in Burgundy (its original, Old World home) and just about everywhere else in the winemaking world. It is a flexible, eager-to-please grape, responding well to just about anything a winemaker wants to do to it. In Chablis, for example, Chardonnay is made into lean, minerally wines, while in California, it has historically been made into viscous wines with big, round, buttery flavors. Since the mid-1990s, when the Chardonnay backlash reached its peak, there has been a trend in America toward using less oak in Chardonnay bottlings, as its ready absorption of the wood's flavor characteristics can produce wines that some consider overly aggressive and cloyingly rich.