Chardonnay Food Pairing
Chardonnay is the most widely planted white grape variety in the world. It’s the chameleon of the white wine world with styles ranging from full-bodied bold oak aged wines to mineral-driven wines with bright acidity to the most famous bubbly. Because of its versatility, Chardonnay food pairing is both simple and a little tricky. Simple because there’s a Chardonnay to match nearly every food and a bit tricky because you need to know which expression of Chardonnay you’re getting.
Where is Chardonnay from?
The grape variety Chardonnay originated in the famous wine region of Burgundy in northeast France. Due to its adaptability, Chardonnay flourishes in vineyards around the world.
Best Wine Regions for Chardonnay
- Burgundy: the native region of Chardonnay produces various wine styles, including oaked, unoaked, and full-body versions. I cover specifics here.
- Champagne: Chardonnay is the main white grape of Champagne. If you see Blanc de Blanc on a Champagne label, it is 100% Chardonnay.
- California (Napa, Russian River, Sonoma): Chardonnay made in California tends to be full-bodied, oak aged, and creamy due to a winemaking technique called malolactic fermentation.
- Margaret River Australia: Chardonnay from Australia is remarkably balanced and usually a very good value.
Oaked vs. Unoaked Chardonnay
Oaked Chardonnay means that the wine has been aged or fermented in oak barrels instead of stainless steel tanks. This process imparts unique flavors and smells from the oak to the wine. As a result, oaked Chardonnay pairs best with heavier dishes, while unoaked styles favor more delicate plates. Chardonnay that has a gold color has been put in oak barrels. Chardonnay with a pale straw color has not.
What does Oaked Chardonnay Smell like?
Chardonnay can pick up various smells, depending on the type of oak and barrel used. Think of vanilla, butter, baking spices, or caramel.
What does Unoaked Chardonnay Smell like?
Unoaked Chardonnay keeps the original smells of this fruity and floral grape variety. That includes the aromas of green apples, tropical fruits, and lemon.
Is Chardonnay dry or sweet?
Chardonnay is predominantly a dry wine. However, it can obtain a sweet flavor or aftertaste if oaked in barrels that add flavors like vanilla or butterscotch. Generally though, there is little to no residual sugar in most well-produced Chardonnay.
What does Oaked Chardonnay Taste like?
Depending on the oak barrel used, Chardonnay can taste anything from vanilla and apple pie to toast and butter.
What does Unoaked Chardonnay Taste like?
Crisp minerality, vibrancy, and apple flavors will be the main characteristics when you taste unoaked Chardonnay. Yet, the final taste always boils down to the specific style and region of the wine at hand.
Characteristics of Chardonnay to Consider when Pairing Food
Chardonnay is the type of wine that keeps the balance in everything. Medium acid, medium alcohol, medium body. The only occasion it diverges is when it goes through malolactic fermentation. In those cases, Chardonnay is full-bodied.
The easiest trick for Chardonnay food pairing: Unoaked Chardonnay pairs with whatever you would squeeze a lemon on. Oaked Chardonnay pairs with anything you would put butter on.
Chardonnay Food Pairing List
Appetizers for Chardonnay
Although Chardonnay can match almost all types of appetizers, some pairings stand out. Anything with plenty of cheese will do the trick, especially with oaked styles of Chardonnay.
- Spinach and artichoke dip
- Potato skins
- Carrots and hummus
- Shrimp cocktail (Chablis)
- Cheese and crackers
Salads with Chardonnay
As long as you don’t overdo it with tomatoes and citrus fruits, any salad with medium acidity can perfectly match Chardonnay. If you would like to have an oaky style Chardonnay, go for a salad with creamy dressings.
- Caesar salad
- Grilled chicken salad with creamy dressing
- Seafood salad
- Grilled shrimp salad
Pizza and Chardonnay
Again, Chardonnay can shine and elevate the taste of pizza if they share the same flavor profile. Among all options, you want to try white pizza with a full-bodied Chardonnay that has gone through MLF. On the other hand, if your pizza has lots of cheese, opt for the unoaked versions of Chardonnay; the higher acidity will cut through the greasy (delicious) cheese.
- Hawaiian pizza
- Quattro Formaggi
- White pizza with mushrooms
Chicken and poultry dishes that pair with Chardonnay
As you may already know, white wine shines when paired with poultry dishes. Chardonnay is a great fit with everything from chicken wings to turkey breast. Roasted and grilled chicken and poultry pair best with Chardonnay with a bit of oak on it. Similarly try it with chicken pot pie or fettuccini alfredo. You will love how well the cream sauce blends everything together. Unoaked Chardonnay pairs better with chicken breast, chicken piccata, and lemon chicken.
Sandwiches with Chardonnay
If you want to make the perfect sandwich-Chardonnay combination, choose anything with white meat. Think turkey and avocado sandwich or chicken salad sandwich. And honestly, there’s nothing better with a lobster roll than a big ole glass of Chardonnay.
Chardonnay with Red Meat
When pairing white wines with red meat, balance is key. Because oak-aged Chardonnay is fuller bodied, it can stand up to a heavier meat dish. It’s not a coincidence that steak houses carry full wine list pages of California-style Chardonnay.
Pork with Chardonnay
Like other meats, pork can pair great with oaked Chardonnay, especially the more toasty or buttered versions. If you are unsure about the final selection, prepare pork tenderloin with apple sauce and serve it with a glass of Napa Valley Chardonnay. Then enjoy the combo, and thank me later!
Fish and Seafood with Chardonnay
Fish and seafood are obvious matches with white wines. With Chardonnay, lean towards fattier fish like salmon, tuna, and halibut. Oaky Chardonnay is incredible, I mean incredible, with lobster with drawn butter. Steamers, fried clams, and crab are also amazing with Chardonnay. I grew up in New England, I know my seafood.
Vegetarian Dishes that Pair with Chardonnay
Chardonnay food pairing with vegetarian dishes is relatively simple; unoaked Chardonnay with vegetable heavy dishes and oaked Chardonnay with beans, stews, and pasta. Chardonnay that has been aged for a few years is particularly good with mushroom-based vegetarian foods.
Chardonnay Food Pairing: Cheese
Pair unoaked light Chardonnay with mild and semi-soft cheeses. But don’t be afraid to opt for a heavier, more flavorful cheese, especially with the oaked versions of Chardonnay. The best cheeses with Chardonnay:
- Aged Cheddar
- Fresh Mozzarella (unoaked is better)
Serving Suggestions for Chardonnay
Before you serve Chardonnay, make sure it is chilled. If you have an oaked style, it can be slightly less cold. Once you have the temperature right, pour it straight into a classic wine glass or a wide bulb glass for the oaked styles. Although you can safely let most Chardonnays age for up to five years, oaked versions can go as long as a decade or more. More about wine serving temperature here.
Frequently Asked Questions about Chardonnay Food Pairing
What foods go well with Chardonnay?
Chardonnay has chameleon-like abilities when it comes to food pairing. Although the specifics always depend on the particular style of Chardonnay, remember that oaked versions need heavier dishes, such as roast pork, halibut, or roasted chicken. On the other hand, unoaked Chardonnay shines when paired with lighter dishes like vegetables, salads, and delicate seafood.
What appetizer goes with Chardonnay?
Although any light and bright appetizer will make a great pairing with Chardonnay, you want to find something with cheese or fresh tomatoes. If you have an oaked style of Chardonnay, you can try cooked pumpkins, caramelized onion, or flatbreads.
What type of cheese goes with Chardonnay?
Anything from fresh cheese to gouda or aged cheddar can pair wonderfully with Chardonnay. A good trick is aged cheeses pair better with oak aged Chardonnay while fresh cheeses pair better with unoaked Chardonnay.