What kind of food goes with Chardonnay? This wine guide will tell you 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.
Published March 2nd 2021
Pairing Chardonnay with food is not very tricky. It is an excellent food wine which pairs with a wide range of dishes, but it is important to keep in mind that there are different styles of Chardonnay. It is a diverse grape which gives lean and mineral wines as well as rich and creamy white wines. The most famous sparkling wine - Champagne - is also made with this popular grape variety. This wine guide will help you to better understand how to pair different styles of Chardonnay with food.
Before we look into which pair to pair with Chardonnay, we should understand the different wine styles from this beloved grape.
Chardonnay is in fact the most planted white wine grape in the world. It is planted in basically every wine producing country and the style varies depending on the production method, 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 the different styles into 4 different styles:
Unoaked Chardonnay is a lean and mineral style. Instead of oak, the wine is aged in steel tanks. This style is usually crisp and dry light-bodied white wines with characteristic flavours of citrus, minerality, pear, apple and salinity. The acidity is usually medium high.
This style is mostly produced in cold climate areas, such as Burgundy in France (where this style is known as Chablis), the Loire Valley in France, Western Australia, Oregon in USA and the Colchagua Valley in Chile.
Oaked Chardonnay is a rich and creamy wine. When the wine spends time on oak barrels it develops characteristic flavours of toast, butter, coconut and vanilla. The oak gives a more full-bodied white wines with structure and a creamy, smooth and oily texture. The acidity is usually lower than the lean and mineral style. The fruit flavours are usually more tropical 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.
Sparking Chardonnay, such as Champagne and Crémant. Chardonnay is the only white grape in the classic Champagne blend. A Blanc de blanc Champagne is made only with Chardonnay grapes. The 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 left on the vine longer than usual. The grapes are picked after their peak ripeness, they become sweeter with a 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 and it 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.
The unoaked, 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. An 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 unoaked version of the same grape. The oak brings out aromas of toast, butter, vanilla and tropical fruit. It is important to take into consideration the texture and flavours of the food when pairing it 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 you put butter on 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 a rich and sweet wine which has higher sugar content than other types of wine made from this grape variety. The best food paring for late harvest Chardonnay is different types of desserts. With characteristic aromas of citrus, honey, tropical fruit and apple, it is easy to pair it with many delicious sweets.
Good pairings for Late harvest Chardonnay include:
Tips! When pairing wine with desserts, always choose a wine which is at least as sweet as the food - otherwise the wine will not taste optimal.
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 its good acidity and citrus aromas, Chardonnay is often a good choice for vegetarian foods. The lean and mineral unoaked Chardonnay is not only a safe choice to many different types if vegetables, but also to salty cheeses like Halloumi and Feta.
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 the obvious pairing, but it is possible. If the food is not too spicy, an unoaked chardonnay might work. Usually, it is 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 type of cheeses.
Tips! If you want a white wine to pair with the 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 with 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. A red wine or a rosé are typical pairings with charcuterie, but a rich oaked Chardonnay can stand up to the bold flavours. 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 tricky, 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 the equal amount of sweetness. That is why Late harvest Chardonnay is the best wine pairing for apple pie, cheesecake and other creamy and fruity desserts.