What kind of food goes with Chardonnay? This wine guide will help you find the answer. In order to master Chardonnay food pairing, you need to know the different styles of this popular grape variety. This wine guide will help you find the best food parings for four different styles of Chardonnay.
Last updated January 27th 2023
Pairing Chardonnay with food is not very difficult. It is an excellent food wine that pairs with a wide range of dishes, but it's important to keep in mind that there are different styles in which wine from this grape is made. Chardonnay is a diverse grape that can give lean and mineral wines, as well as rich and creamy. The most famous sparkling wine - Champagne - is also made with this popular grape variety. This wine guide will help you better understand how to pair different styles of Chardonnay with food.
Before we look into what foods pair with Chardonnay, we should understand the different styles of this popular grape.
Chardonnay is in fact the most planted white wine grape in the world. It is planted in basically every wine-producing country, and its style varies depending on the production method used, weather conditions, usage of oak, and other factors. Does it sound complicated? Don’t worry, even if Chardonnay is a diverse grape, it is possible to divide it into 4 different styles:
Unoaked Chardonnay is lean and mineral. Instead of oak, the wine is aged in steel tanks. This style usually gives crisp and dry light-bodied white wines, with characteristic flavours of citrus, minerality, pear, apple and salinity. Its acidity is usually medium-high.
This style is mostly produced in cold climate areas, such as Burgundy (where this style is known as Chablis) and the Loire Valley in France, Western Australia, Oregon in the USA and the Colchagua Valley in Chile.
Oaked Chardonnay is rich and creamy. When the wine spends time on oak barrels it develops characteristic flavours of toast, butter, coconut and vanilla. Oak gives more full-bodied white wines with structure and a creamy, smooth, oily texture. The acidity of oaked Chardonnay is usually lower than Unoaked Chardonnays. The fruit flavors in this style usually have a more tropical profile, with aromas of pineapple, peach and yellow apples.
This style is common in warm climate areas, such as Napa Valley in the USA, Stellenbosch in South Africa, eastern Australia, Puglia in Italy and Mendoza in Argentina. This style is also produced in cold climate areas such as Burgundy, where famous wine districts for this style include Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet and Meursault.
Chardonnay is the only white grape in the classic Champagne blend. A Blanc de Blancs Champagne is made only with Chardonnay grapes. This sparkling style can be made both in the lean & mineral style (non-vintage Champagne) and the rich & creamy style (vintage Champagne).
Late Harvest Chardonnay is a rich, sweet wine made from grapes that were left on the vine longer than usual. Because the grapes are picked after their peak ripeness, they become sweeter, with more concentrated sugar content and lower acidity. This type of wine has a creamy texture and characteristic flavours of citrus, honey, tropical fruit and apple.
Chardonnay is a versatile grape variety that pairs with a wide range of foods, from delicate seafood dishes to heavier poultry. The key when it comes to Chardonnay food paring is to know what style of Chardonnay you are having.
Even the serving temperature varies depending on the style.
This lean and mineral style of Chardonnay pairs very well with seafood, fish, lighter dishes and cheese.
Good parings for unoaked Chardonnay include:
Tips! Think about balancing the wine and the food. Unoaked Chardonnay is a relatively light wine and should be paired with an equally light food.
The best food pairing with oaked Chardonnay is a bit more complex than the grape's unoaked version. Oak brings out aromas of toast, butter, vanilla and tropical fruit to Chardonnay. It is important to take into consideration the texture and flavors of the food when pairing with Chardonnay. If the food is too spicy, too salty, or too sweet, it will make the wine taste less than ideal.
Good pairings for oaked Chardonnay include:
Tips! Rule of thumb when paring food and oaked Chardonnay: foods with butter butter will probably pair well with a rich and creamy oaked Chardonnay.
Sparkling wine made of Chardonnay, such as Champagne, pairs very well with many different types of foods.
Good pairings for sparkling Chardonnay include:
Late harvest Chardonnay is rich and sweet, and has higher sugar content than other types of Chardonnay wines. The best food parings for late harvest Chardonnay are different types of desserts. With characteristic aromas of citrus, honey, tropical fruit and apple, it is easy to pair with many delicious sweets.
Good pairings for Late harvest Chardonnay include:
Tips! When pairing wine with desserts, always choose a wine that is at least as sweet as the food - otherwise the wine will not taste good.
If you are looking for the best wine paring for shellfish, Chardonnay is a great choice.
Tips! When pairing Chardonnay with shellfish, always balance the richness of the food and the wine.
When pairing Chardonnay with fish, both unoaked and oaked styles work. The best wine choice depends on the type of fish, how it is cooked, and the condiments.
Chardonnay also pairs well with chicken and poultry. Again, the best wine pairing depends on the cooking method and condiments.
With good acidity and citrus aromas, Chardonnay is often a good choice for vegetarian dishes. The lean and mineral unoaked Chardonnay is not only a safe choice to many different types of vegetables, but also to salty cheeses like Halloumi and Feta.
Tips! To learn more about the best wine for vegetarian dishes, we recommend our wine guide for vegetarian food.
Chardonnay with spicy food might not be an obvious pairing, but it is possible. If the food is not too spicy, an unoaked chardonnay can work. Usually, it's better to choose a wine with a hint of sweetness if you are eating spicy foods.
What cheese is good with Chardonnay? In fact, there are many! Since Chardonnay is such a versatile grape variety, the different wine styles pair well with different types of cheese.
Tips! If you want a white wine to pair with a cheese board, Chardonnay is a safe choice.
Chardonnay is a great wine with appetizers and snacks. A lean and fresh unoaked Chardonnay pairs well with fingers foods like cheese, olives and vegetables.
Tips! If you are serving chips or deep-fried finger foods, choose a sparkling Chardonnay or a crisp unoaked Chardonnay.
Chardonnay can also be a good wine pairing for a charcuterie board. Red wine or rosé are typical pairings with charcuterie, but a rich oaked Chardonnay can stand up to the bold flavours of the cured meats. Just make sure not to pair it with too spicy charcuterie, since it tends to overpower the wine.
Many people think that Chardonnay dessert pairing is a bit difficult, but all you need to remember is to match the sweetness of the food with the sweetness of the wine. A sweet dessert requires a wine with equal amount of sweetness. That is why Late harvest Chardonnay is the best pairing for apple pie, cheesecake and other creamy and fruity desserts.