Chardonnay is one of the most versatile white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. This classic grape variety first came to Australia in the late 1920s but it wasn't until the 1970s that it become the most widely planted variety in the country.
The peak of its fame came in the 1980s but the style, full of "oaky" buttery flavours, has since become less popular. Today Chardonnay tends to be more restrained with outstanding structure and balance. Look for hints of vanilla/oak flavours and plenty of ripe, melon/grapefruit to ripe peach fruit, from warmer inland regions (Murray Darling, Riverland, Riverina). The Yarra Valley and Margaret River are know for producing wonderful Chardonnay examples that show fruit richness and complexity. Whilst from the coolest regions, such as Tasmania, Adelaide Hills and Mornington Peninsula the characters are more subtle, restrained, mineral with citrus and grapefruit.
It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or. Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvelous poise, elegance and balance.
Chardonnay is critical to the Champagne blend, providing backbone and finesse. It is the only grape that can be used to produce Blanc de Blancs. It is also widely planted in California, Chile and South Africa, and New Zealand.