Written by: Tim Edison

Updated: April 22, 2023

Ultimate Chardonnay Food Pairing Guide [+20 Pairings]

Chardonnay food pairing guide

From dry to sweet to sparkling, with flavors ranging from lemon to honey to butterscotch, few wines can claim to be as versatile as Chardonnay. 

Grown all over the world, available oaked and unoaked with ranges of sweetness, it’s no wonder that Chardonnay is the most popular white wine in the world. 

This guide covers everything you need to know about making the perfect Chardonnay pairing. 

We cover tasting notes, regional differences, and pairing tips, then finish with some awesome food pairing recommendations. 

What Does Chardonnay Taste Like?

Before discussing which foods to pair with Chardonnay, it’s helpful to go over what Chardonnay tastes like and how its regional and winemaking differences affect its flavor. 

Chardonnay is commonly found as a dry, medium-bodied white wine with medium acidity and alcohol content. 

Chardonnay grows in cool, moderate, and warm climates, each possessing its own unique flavor profile. It is also widely made both oaked and unoaked. 

In warm climates, such as in Australia, Chardonnay is fuller in body and exudes flavors of stonefruit and tropical fruit. 

In moderate climates, such as in California, Chardonnay can have flavors of lemon, peach, and melon. 

Cool climate Chardonnay, such as in Burgundy or Oregon, is usually higher in acid and has flavors of bruised apple, pear, citrus, and wet stones. 

Many full-bodied examples of Chardonnay have aging potential and can develop flavors of nuts and honey in the bottle. However, young Chardonnay typically has more crisp and elegant flavors reminiscent of Pinot Grigio.

Oaked Chardonnay will develop distinct nutty, buttery, and vanilla flavors, whereas unoaked Chardonnay is crisp with more fruit-driven flavors. 

Zolo Unoaked Chardonnay

French Chardonnay

Chardonnay is most commonly grown in Burgundy, where it is virtually the only white grape used to make White Burgundy. 

In Burgundy, Chardonnay can be expected to have flavors of lemon, green apple, yellow apple, cream, toast, and vanilla. 

While most examples of Chardonnay from Burgundy are oaked, one notable exception is Chablis. Chablis is unoaked and has floral and citrus aromas, with clean flavors of lemon, green fruit, and delicate minerality.

In addition to Burgundy, Chardonnay is one of the few approved grapes to be used in Champagne and the only grape permitted to make Crémant in Alsace.  

US Chardonnay

While France is leading the way with Chardonnay production, the United States is closely trailing behind. Here, California is king, with exceptional Chardonnay coming from Napa, Sonoma, Carneros, and Santa Barbara, to name a few. 

California Chardonnay produces wines full of tropical, stonefruit, and citrus flavors. Both oaked and unoaked examples are expected, with oaked Chardonnay excluding flavors of brioche and cream. 

In addition to California, Oregon also makes excellent Chardonnay. Oregon’s Willamette Valley produces high-acid, lightly oaked Chardonnay with flavors of bruised apple and lemon.

Australian Chardonnay

Chardonnay is widely made in Australia and is its leading white wine produced. Typically made as a single varietal and blended with Semillon, Chardonnay is more of a warm climate style. 

The best Chardonnay in Australia comes from the Yarra Valley and Adelaide Hills in South Australia. Expect flavors of tropical and stonefruit to dominate, with Semillon often added to impart citrusy flavors.

Chilean Chardonnay

While not known for its complexity, Chile nonetheless produces crisp and easy-drinking examples of Chardonnay. 

Most notably in Casablanca Valley and Central Valley, quality levels vary, with wines ranging from lean and subtle to balanced. Flavors of grapefruit, lemon, and pineapple can be expected, with little to no oak flavor.

How to Pair Chardonnay

Chardonnay is as diverse in its winemaking style as it is in its regional flavor profiles, making it an ideal food pairing wine if you’re willing to commit a few styles to memory. 

When paired successfully, Chardonnay unwinds into a delicious, well-balanced, refreshing white wine that imparts delicate flavors, elevating everything it’s served alongside.

Factors to Consider When Pairing Foods with Chardonnay

The two most important factors to consider when selecting which Chardonnay to pair are its style (dry, sweet, sparkling) and if it is oaked or unoaked. 

Oaked Chardonnay will have more rounded-out flavors with heavy notes of cream, toast, and oak spices. These flavors compliment like-minded buttery and creamy dishes. 

Unoaked Chardonnay will have more crisp and clean flavors, with their natural citrus and green fruit flavors being revealed. These flavors belong with lightly seasoned dishes, seafood, and creamy sauces. 

Sweet styles of Chardonnay, such as late harvest Chardonnay, are best paired with sweet dishes like whipped cream with fresh fruit or lemon bars. 

Sparkling Chardonnay, such as Champagne or Crémant, can be served with just about anything. From fried foods to spicy dishes to pizza, Champagne should always be on the table. 

In general, it is best to avoid heavy meat dishes, smoked meat, and anything that you would otherwise consider fit for red wine - since that’s the only thing that Chardonnay can never be!

The Best Chardonnay Food Pairings

As mentioned countless times, Chardonnay is wonderfully versatile and fit for endless food pairings. Here are some of my absolute favotites!

Chardonnay Meat Dish Pairings

shrimp scampi cooking in a pan

Shrimp scampi cooking in a pan

  • 40 clove garlic chicken - As the name suggests, this dish packs a ton of flavor, making it the perfect dish to complement a full-bodied Napa Chardonnay or White Burgundy.
  • Shrimp scampi - With a delicate white wine and cream sauce, a refreshing glass of unoaked, medium-bodied Chardonnay is perfect for balancing those delicate flavors. 
  • Pan-seared mackerel - Mackerel is a richly flavored, oily fish, and when served pan-seared with fresh herbs, it is best suited for a refreshing unoaked Chardonnay.
  • Lobster - Such luxury as lobster dressed in butter needs a wine that will accentuate without overpowering. Either oaked or unoaked would pair perfectly.
  • Salmon in lemon cream sauce - Meatly but flavorful fish can be challenging to pair, as it can overpower more delicate white wines. Stick to a White Burgundy or Napa Chardonnay for a well-balanced pairing.

Chardonnay Vegetarian Dish Pairings

Green Leaf Salad

Green leaf salad

  • Pumpkin ravioli - The combination of cream sauce and sweet, hearty pumpkin filling requires a wine with higher acid to avoid being overpowered. Stick to an unoaked Oregon Chardonnay or Chablis. 
  • Green salad - Clean, crisp, and light, your average salad can be overpowered by bold wines. Stick to an unoaked Chilean or Oregon Chardonnay.
  • Lyonnaise potatoes - The combination of hearty potatoes with sweet and savory caramelized onion belongs with a zesty and refreshing Chardonnay to liven up the dish. Stick to an unoaked Australian or Chilean Chardonnay.
  • Pizza with white sauce - Between a balanced pairing of oaked Chardonnay or a contrasting pairing of young unoaked Chardonnay, you can’t go wrong. Oh, and Champagne isn’t a bad choice, either!
  • Asian stir fry - The combination of savory and spicy flavors makes for a delicious pairing with a refreshing Australian blend or glass of Crémant.

Chardonnay Appetizer Pairings

Charcuterie Board of Meat & Cheese

Charcuterie Board

  • Crabcakes - Lightly crispy on the outside with fresh flavor and a creamy dipping sauce, crab cakes are delicious yet delicate. Stick to a refreshing unoaked Chardonnay such as Chablis.
  • Fish pâtés - Sweet, salty, and funky, fish pâtés require a wine that will stand up to that mouthful of flavor, and a light, crisp, unoaked Chardonnay is perfect for the task.
  • Charcuterie - Traditionally an assortment of cured meats, this savory and simple appetizer is ideally paired with a full-bodied and oak-driven Chardonnay. Stick to White Burgundy or Sonoma Chardonnay.
  • Spinach artichoke dip - Ridiculously rich and creamy, few wines can alleviate a rich dish such as spinach artichoke dip. Stick to an unoaked and zesty Australian Chardonnay.
  • Fried mozzarella sticks - What’s better than fried cheese? Fried cheese with Champagne, of course! The two complement each other perfectly, with Champagne’s bright acid cutting through the fatty and rich flavors of the mozzarella sticks.

Chardonnay and Cheese Pairings

Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese

Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese

  • Brie - Oaked, buttery Chardonnay pairs perfectly with soft-ripened and funky cheeses like brie. That said, you can’t go wrong with a contrasting pairing of a light and bright unoaked Chardonnay.
  • Triple cream goat cheese - Triple cream cheese is wonderfully decadent and requires a wine fit for accentuating those flavors. Oaked White Burgundy or Napa Chardonnay is an ideal pairing.
  • Limburger - A creamy, semi-hard cheese known for its pungent aroma and earthy flavor, it’s the perfect pairing with an oaked, buttery Chardonnay.
  • Havarti - Mild and slightly sweet, Havarti is the perfect mild-mannered cheese to pair alongside a glass of equally mild-mannered Chilean Chardonnay.
  • Mozzarella - Pairing creamy mozzarella with a refreshing glass of oaked Chardonnay is guaranteed to elevate the wine and breathe life into the delicately flavored cheese.

Chardonnay and Snack Pairings

Popcorn in a bowl

Popcorn in a bowl

  • Buttery popcorn - Butter is an oaked Chardonnay’s best friend if you couldn’t already tell. Pair your next popcorn movie night with a tall glass of California Chardonnay.
  • Candy corn - Maybe you’re the type of person who eats candy corn year round - we’re not here to judge. But if you do, then you should consider pairing this candy with a refreshing glass of Crémant or oaky Chardonnay.
  • Salted caramel blondies - Sweet, nutty, and slightly salty, all of these flavors mesh together perfectly with a late harvest Chardonnay. 
  • Potato chips - A crispy and salty snack is ideally paired with an easy-drinking and refreshing wine. Think Crémant or a California sparkling wine that’s a bit lower in pricepoint - unless they’re fancy chips.
  • Fried pickles - Decadent snacks like fried pickles don’t pass by every day, so treat yourself with a round of fried pickles, some special sauce, and of course, a glass of Champagne!

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About the Author Tim Edison

Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).

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