The ABCs of Chardonnay

Myth: Chardonnay is always full, creamy, and oakey.

“I am an ‘ABC’ - Anything But Chardonnay!”

We hear that often. The deep buttery flavor of warm-climate Chardonnays like from Napa Valley are not the only way to enjoy Chardonnay. These wines are most often aged in oak which imparts the darker flavor and mouthfeel. Also, Chardonnay is often subjected to MLF - Malolactic Fermentation, a secondary process that changes the tart malic acid of the grape into softer lactic acid. (1)

There are alternatives. A lower exposure to oak - using chips or coils instead of barrel aging - can lead to a more nuanced flavor and color, zesty and citrusy. These wines are most often from color wine regions, like Oregon or Washington here in the States.

Color is a good indicator. A rich buttery Chardonnay will display a gold, darker color. A lighter color is indicative of a crisp, more acidic wine with less oak exposure.

Then there is a “Chablis-like” version. In the Burgundy region of Chablis (a cooler growing area) they make a Chardonnay with no oak at all (with a few minor exceptions) that is light and crisp. (2) It can be called “Chablis” because it is from the Chablis wine region, and not to be confused with the cheap Chablis of years past sold here in the U.S.

When looking for an unoaked Chardonnay, look for these terms: ‘inox,’ ‘no oak,’ ‘sans chêne’ (France), and ‘acero’ (Spain). (3)

We make our Oak Tree Manor Chardonnay with no oak (seems like a contradiction - Oak Tree Manor - but there you go). Give it a try for a different wine experience.


(1) Loewentheil, H. (08/2017)I Took A Six-Month Wine Class... . Buzz Feed.

(2) Chablis vs Chardonnay: A Tale of Burgundy. (n.d.) The Wine Wiki.

(3) How Unoaked Chardonnay can Reinvigorate the Varietal. (nd). Wine Folly.