Vine varieties: Chardonnay

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About
The great white grape variety of Burgundy came late to California but, once arrived, it swiftly came to play vanilla to Cabernet Sauvignon’s chocolate. It has become so ubiquitous that many consumers use the name almost synonymously with white wine. However, grown in appropriate vineyards and made with care, it can be glorious and is still the premier white varietal wine of the state.

Wente Bros resolutely grew and made Chardonnay in livermore valley during the 1940s. They were almost alone until 1952, when Napa’s Stony Hill winery brought new attention to the varietal wine. With its celebrated 1957, Hanzell added the effects of new oak barrels to those of the vineyard, inspiring first dozens then scores to clamber on to that bandwagon. After a 1973 from Ch Montelena came first against some respectable white burgundies in the Judgment of Paris in 1976, a whole new gold rush was on. Best estimates are that, by the early 21st century, California wineries were producing more than 1,500 different Chardonnays in each vintage.