The result of a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc, Chardonnay is the most popular white wine in the world, originally born in the Burgundy region of France. Surprisingly, it's also the most divisive, as there are no firm rules to growing it. The wine can be aged or consumed immediately, simple or regal, sweet and fruity or earthy and savoury.
Soon after the initial spike of the green skinned grape popularity in Burgundy, wineries in Champagne began growing the grape as well, resulting in it becoming the main ingredient for their sparkling wines. Despite growing identical grape vines, the characteristics of the wines were very different and that's when winemakers slowly started realizing how the grape changes its features depending on the surrounding terroir. There are not two regions out there that produce the exact same Chardonnay.
Its popularity rose in the late 1980s, leading to a process of globalization of wine. Because of its relative ease of cultivation and adaptability to different conditions, Chardonnay is today the second most planted white grape variety, second to the Spanish Airen grape.
The grape is relatively easy to grow in almost any climate, so soon after becoming popular in France, it's quickly spread across the globe. In warmer climates of Europe (France, Italy, and Germany), South America (Chile and Brazil) and Australia, Chardonnay features many tropical flavours, while the cooler climates of Canada, for example, add notes of earthy fall and fallen leaves to the wine.
As a result, a Chardonnay lover always has a bottle of their favourite wine for every occasion there is, no matter what season it is. The only thing to keep an eye on is the oak process. This white wine is very responsive to being aged in oak. While a little oak on it adds the luscious mouth feel and a note of vanilla, too much oak changes the taste to something more like liquid butter. Popular in the '80s and '90s, this practice has pretty much stopped entirely in the last few years.
When it comes to picking the right meal to accompany with your glass of Chardonnay, things can get a little tricky. Depending on what climate the grape is from and how long it's been aged for, there are many different meals that will go well with it. Young unoaked Chardonnay from Canada, for example, will do best will lightly cooked or steamed fish, chicken, pasta and vegetables, while mature Chardonnays from France will supplement the flavour of roasted mushrooms and tomatoes.