A wine with such a Global reputation it would give most pop stars a run for their money, Chardonnay is a white wine grown all over the world.
Chardonnay is a French variety, originating from the Burgundy region of France, and part of its popularity is down to how well Chardonnay expresses place.
But does Chardonnay’s terroir-driven popularity make it a dry or a sweet wine?
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Is Chardonnay Sweet?
No, Chardonnay is a dry white wine rather than sweet. Traditionally Chardonnay produces medium to full bodied white wines.
Best known for its role in white Burgundies, as with other typically dry wines like Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay is commonly a bone-dry wine, doesn't mean it’s always a dry wine.
Here's a comparison of the sweetness of Chardonnay versus other wines:
|Sweetness Level||Wine Varieties|
|Bone Dry||Muscadet, Brut Nature|
|Dry||Chablis, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier|
|Off-Dry||Early-harvest Riesling, Gewürztraminer wine|
|Sweet||Late-harvest Riesling, Barsac, Sauternes, Muscat|
|Very Sweet||Sherry, Ice Wine|
In fact, you may be surprised to find out that Chardonnay can make some really delicious, opulent dessert wines, as well as softly sweet sparkling wines.
It really is the most versatile grape out there.
So if Chardonnay is known for being so dry, how can the same grape make something so sweet as well?
Surely, it can’t do both?
Why Is Chardonnay Sweet?
Why is Chardonnay sweet, especially when it is so often dry, is a very good question to ask.
Typically, Chardonnay makes incredibly dry white wines, that’s part of its charm.
Once the yeast has fermented all the sugar in Chardonnay and converted it into alcohol there is no residual sugar left, leaving only a dry taste and those really vivacious tasting notes of pear, papaya and lemon.
So in order to make a Chardonnay sweet, some dessert winemaking practices need to be applied to the Chardonnay grapes.
There are lots of different ways to make dessert wines, and they’ll vary from maker to maker.
But some methods involve leaving Chardonnay grapes on the vine for longer periods of time so that they become really ripe and others may involve freezing the grapes to concentrate its sugars, making ice wine in the process.
The key here is in concentrating the grape’s sugars so there’s lots of sugar leftover after fermentation.
Sweetness aside, what does Chardonnay taste like?
What Does Chardonnay Taste Like?
Chardonnay may be a very terroir expressing variety, but what exactly does Chardonnay taste like?
Chardonnay, especially when grown in its native Burgundy, makes sophisticated, well structured and mouthwateringly acidic wines with lots of complexity.
Typical tasting notes of Chardonnay include:
- Meyer Lemon
- Lime Zest
- Tropical Fruit
Think hints of apple blossom, carving out segments of crisp, green pears, juicy pieces of mango with thick yoghurt for breakfast and ripe, succulent peaches.
To ensure you’re getting the best out of your Chardonnay’s tasting notes, and for more tips on storing your wine, take a look at our wine storage guides.
Chardonnay Wine Characteristics
Now we’ve got a grasp on sweetness, what other characteristics can you expect to find in a glass of Chardonnay?
- Alcohol Levels - Alcohol levels in Chardonnay wines range at the top end, between 13.5-15% ABV.
- Sweetness Level - Typically Chardonnay makes bone-dry white wines, although there are some dessert wine styles of the grape to be found.
- Acidity Level - Chardonnay has a medium acidity, lots of crisp notes of lemon and lime which help to cut through creamy dishes.
- Tannin Level- Like all white wines, there is not a tannin to be found in a glass of Chardonnay.
- Body - Chardonnay has lots of complex flavours, so luckily for us the wines also tend to have a medium-full body to compliment all the wonderful aromas and tastes in the glass.
So what are the sweet types of Chardonnay and where can you find them?
Sweet Types of Chardonnay Wine
Sweet types of Chardonnay aren’t an everyday occurrence, so if you're really dreaming after a glass it may be best to ask your local wine seller for their assistance.
Sweet types of Chardonnay wine can include:
- Dessert wines made using late-ripened Chardonnay
- As well as sweet styles of Champagne, such as Doux, made using predominantly Chardonnay grapes.
But how does Chardonnay compare to other wines?
Is Chardonnay sweeter than Pinot Grigio, for example?
Is Chardonnay Sweeter Than Pinot Grigio?
As a rule both Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio are used to make very dry, but very delicious, white wines.
Both wines, when made in this style, are about the same level of dryness.
Although some fruitier tasting versions of the wines may give the impression of sweetness so riper styles of Pinot Gris, with luxurious, oilier bodies may appear a little sweeter.
So how does Chardonnay compare to Sauvignon Blanc, instead?
Related: Is Pinot Grigio Sweet?
Is Chardonnay Sweeter Than Sauvignon Blanc?
Once again, Chardonnay and Sauvingon Blanc are perhaps the same level of sweetness in that typically both of these grapes make dry white wines.
Sauvignon Blanc can be used to make deliciously sweet Sauternes though and in this case, Sauvignon Blanc will absolutely be sweeter than Chardonnay.
So always keep an eye out for the indicators on the labels!
Related: Is Sauvignon Blanc Sweet?
Before You Go...
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You can read our other guides about Chardonnay here: