Chardonnay is capable of a range of flavours and styles from the high acid component in Champagne(here in New Zealand Methode Traditionelle) through to the soft, luscious characters found in Gisborne and Hawke's Bay.
Classified as one of the world’s noble grapes, it is also the most widely planted grape variety in the world. There are few winemaking areas that don't boast a Chardonnay as part of their repertoire. In New Zealand it's grown from Northland to Central Otago and is the third most planted variety after Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
In recent years there has been a much better understanding of Chardonnay and its handling during fermentation and maturation. This has resulted in wines that have complexity and still display their regional uniqueness without being dominated by oak or winemaking characters that become detrimental to the wine. Oak is a flavour that works well with Chardonnay. It imparts a vanillin (similar to the character of vanilla ice-cream) or coconut character to the wine depending on the whether the oak is from France or the USA. There are now non oaked Chardonnays also being produced for those seeking the true fruit expression of this grape.
As a generalisation, Chardonnay from New Zealand’s warmer areas has ripe stone fruit, tropical fruit and white peach characters. As you move further south and towards a cooler climate, the flavours move into citrus and flinty characters - all of which make for delicious drinking.
Chardonnay is one of the great food friendly wines, enhancing the more traditional pairings of salmon, chicken, pork and pasta, as well as lamb, duck, tuna steaks and tomato based pasta dishes.