Let’s tackle one of the most pressing questions for everyone starting their journey into the marvelous world of wine. Wine is a complex drink, to say the least, and it takes years to master its complexities. Of course, you need not be an expert to enjoy a glass of your favorite wine now and then.
The question is, is Chardonnay sweet? Well, here’s the deal. It depends. Sadly, not all wines made with Chardonnay taste or smell the same way; the winemaker can create a wide range of wines with the noble white grape. And yes, some examples are sweet. How to tell?
What is Chardonnay anyway?
Let’s start from the beginning. Chardonnay is a French grape born in the prestigious region of Burgundy. It’s still planted there, and it’s the source of some of the most famous white wines in the world.
Chardonnay vines are resilient and easy to grow, they thrive in cold and warm regions alike, so it’s easy to see why the grape found its way to literally every wine region worldwide. What winemakers do with the grape, though, varies significantly.
Wine made with Chardonnay is known for having a sweet nose, which means it smells like ripe golden apples, sweet citrus fruit, white flowers and sometimes even butter and vanilla. Of course, those are scents you’re detecting, not flavors. Interestingly, although Chardonnay’s bouquet is often sweet, the palate is rather dry!
How Are Chardonnay Wines Made?
To make wine with the white grape, grape growers cultivate it, harvest it and send it to the winery. Here, the winemaker presses the grapes to get a sweet juice. Then comes the famous alcoholic fermentation, where yeast turns the sugar in the juice into alcohol. For 95% of Chardonnay wines out there, the producer ferments the wine to dryness. So, is Chardonnay sweet? The grape is, but the wine rarely is. It smells sweet, though, which might confuse your senses!
Still, fermentation isn’t perfect, so some residual sugar stays in the wine. A typical bottle of Chardonnay falls in the Dry Wine category and can have up to 17 grams of sugar per liter, equal to 10 grams of carbs.
Our palates have evolved to detect even the slightest sweetness in food and drinks — that’s how our ancestors knew if the fruit was ready to eat, but there’s a catch. Acidity in food, including wine, counters the sweetness. So even if a glass of Chardonnay has residual sugar, if the wine is too acidic, it will taste bone dry! Isn’t that mind-blowing?
That’s why a glass of lemonade will taste abrasive and overly tart if it has too little sugar, but it’s pleasantly sweet when the sugar and acid are in harmony.
How to Buy Sweet Chardonnay?
If you’re into super sweet wine, look for specialty wines in the Dessert Wine category. Wines made super sweet on purpose – they’re often labeled “late harvest.” For somewhat sweet Chardonnay or table wine, your best bet is finding bottles from warm wine regions, where the wine gets less natural acidity.
A bottle of Chardonnay from Burgundy might have the same residual sugar as a bottle of Napa Chardonnay, but since Burgundy is colder than Napa, the Napa Chardy has less acid and will taste sweeter!
I know wine is a bit complicated, but if you want to know the answer to “is Chardonnay sweet?” remember that it regularly isn’t, but it always displays a sweet aroma. This will help:
Chardonnay has a sweet nose and a dry palate
If you prefer to feel Chardonnay’s subtle sweetness, look for bottles with less acidity, often found in warm regions like Central California, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and Australia. Avoid European Chardonnay, which might be drier because o the colder climate.
Well, now you know all about Chardonnay’s sweetness! Now, open a bottle of your favorite Chardonnay and call some friends over! You learn something every day, right?