Originally originating from eastern France, Chardonnay is a grape variety used in producing fine, dry, white wine. The crafting and creation of wines made from this grape in all its simplicity has made it a widely grown plant.
The international wine market easily accepts new and developing wine regions growing this green-skinned grape variety. It is the second most widely planted grape variety among grapes used in the production of white wines. Its success with regards to this can be attributed to its adaptability to different climates.
Many wonder about its origins as there are different stories surrounding its root. Recent DNA fingerprinting has served to dissolve such doubts. The research suggests that Chardonnay is a hybrid grape variety formed as a result of a cross between Gouais Blanc and Pinot noir grapes.
Chardonnay is a remarkably unique wine variety capable of taking on the uniqueness of its terrior and maker. As such, in warm locations like the Adelaide hills, it picks a peachy or citrusy flavor while in very warm locations like the Central Coast AVA, banana and mango notes are perceived.
Cool climates like Carneros AVA, California, chardonnay tends to be a little acidic with apple, pear, and green plum flavors. They are very easy to cultivate since they adapt to almost any vineyard soil.
How a Chardonnay wine turns out is mostly determined by two processes called malolactic fermentation and oak influence. The buttery taste perceived in some chardonnay wines is as a result of malic acid being converted into lactic acid and diacetyl.
During fermentation or barrel aging, charred oaks can be introduced to give a toasty, smoky, creamy, coconuty, or caramel-like flavor. Which of these flavors is present in the end product is dependent on the degree of charring to which the oaks have been subjected.
Another notable decision that affects wine richness is the time of harvest. Once chardonnay ripens, it quickly starts to lose acidity. If harvested after a while of ripening, wine produced might turn out flabby.
Most chardonnays are meant to be consumed in their youth. Hence, bottle aging isn’t a common characteristic except for those with high acidity.
Also originating from France is the Sauvignon Blanc literally translated “wild white” and usually described as crisp, elegant, and fresh. In cool climates, the grapes produce wines with herbal notes. This could be from grass to nettle, and bell pepper notes, often with marked acidity.
In warmer climates, it can produce wines with tropical fruit notes but less grapefruit notes. It is better consumed young, not an aging fan.
It buds late but ripens early. It performs absolutely well in sunny climates but not in high heat regions as the heat will cause grapes to quickly overripe. This literally translates to acid loss thus producing wines with dull flavors.
Wine making decisions that affect sauvignon blanc wines include how long the juice have been in contact with the skin of the grapes and the temperature of fermentation.
Sauvignon Blanc Vs Chardonnay
Now that we have some important information on both grape varieties, we can compare them based on some key criteria.
Sauvignon blanc wines are of lighter body when compared to chardonnay. They are crisp and juicy with high acidity. You usually would taste a grassy or fresh herb note, sometimes pungent flavored with gooseberry or bell pepper notes. Some of its fruit flavors range from citrusy to tropical. It sometimes has a smoky or toasty note should oaks be introduced.
Chardonnay wines, on the other hand, are full-bodied wines with apple to pear, peach, fig, melon, or pineapple notes. When oaks are introduced depending on how much charring the oak has been subjected to, chardonnay wines turn out with a buttery, spicy, or honey flavor.
It is noteworthy that chardonnay finds it easier to survive aging in oak vessels whereas sauvignon blanc wines avoid contact with oak as much as they can to preserve grape’s acidity.
Either of both grape varieties can be made into dry or sweet wines. In winemaking, sweet doesn’t denote sugary.
Dry wines are simply wines without residual sugars while sweet wines contain residual sugar. The absence of sweetness in dry wines is as a result of what transpires during the fermentation process.
In the making of dry wines, the wine maker allows the yeast eat up all sugars present, hence no sugary sweetness.
The residual sugar that makes a wine “sweet” is left behind only when the winemaker stops the fermentation process before the yeast consumes all sugars.
Note that dry wines still retain the taste of the fruit from which they are made. You just won’t find sugary sweetness. Simply put, you can identify a citrusy note even without it’s been “sweet”.
Sauvignon blanc and chardonnay are both dry, white wines if allowed to ferment completely.
So, should you taste some sugar in a form of either, it must contain some residual sugar purposely made that way by the winemaker.
The white wine sweetness chart on winedryness.com places chardonnay and sauvignon blanc in the same class of dryness.
Based on where they are made and who their maker is, either of both wines could be dryer or sweeter than the other.
Chardonnay grapes have little trouble developing sugar content which often translates into high alcohol levels. On this note, it can be classified as having more alcohol content compared to sauvignon blanc.
The more sugars that are converted into alcohol during fermentation, the more boozier the wine especially if it is given enough time to mature. Maturing is less an option for sauvignon blanc than it is for chardonnay because it is meant to be consumed young.
New Zealand sauvignon blanc and South African sauvignon blanc have 12.5% to 13.5% alcohol content while Californian Chardonnay, Australian Chardonnay, and Chilean Chardonnay have a 13.5% to 14.5% alcohol content. The Californian sauvignon blanc is the major one of its kind that hold an alcohol content equivalent to chardonnay’s.
Chablis made from pure chardonnay in the Chablis region of the Yonne departmente is of more alcohol content and is a remarkably unique and respected wine.
Is Sauvignon Blanc a dry wine?
Most sauvignon blanc wines are dry wines with a tinge of sweetness. As explained earlier, they are dry in the sense that all sugars present are converted to alcohol. Some, though, contain a small amount of residual sugar thus making them sweet wines.
Some dry wines can give a “sweet” sensation. A typical example is Sauvignon blanc. This is not due to residual sugar present but may be notes from the oak barrels used for wine maturation or the maturity of the grapes.
The former is not so peculiar to sauvignon blanc white wines because it is a wine meant to be consumed young. The latter, though, can be said to be responsible for this sweet sensation in wines without residual sugars. This is the taste of the fruit which can be perceived whether a wine is sweet or dry.
Fruity notes don’t mean sweet as in the presence of sugars that were not converted to alcohol.
Does Sauvignon Blanc Taste Dry or Sweet?
Some wines can be so dry that they render your palate “moistureless”. Since there are variations to dryness, there are some wines that taste dryer than others.
Sauvignon blanc though dry is not a bone dry wine like Chablis.
A wine with very high acidity will usually taste dryer than a wine with lesser acidity. New Zealand Sauvignon blanc has acidity so high that its producers have to purposely leave a couple of grams of residual sugar in it to counterbalance its acidity.
Depending on where your sauvignon blanc is produced and the maturity of the grapes, you’ll be able to determine to some extent if it is dry or sweet.
Meals to Pair Sauvignon blanc with
You can pair sauvignon blanc with green herbs like rosemary, basil, mint, or parsley. You can as well pair it with goat cheese, pork, chicken, lobsters, crabs, clams, crabs, tilapia, yoghurt,, cucumber dill yoghurt salad, white bean casserole with white lasagna and zucchini.
Meals to Pair Chardonnay with
Chardonnay wines go well with butter chicken curry, that is, chicken prepared in spices with a creamy sauce. Roast chicken and turkey also pair well with chardonnay.
With its wide range of flavors, this wine goes with almost any meat, fish, or vegetable. So from crabs to shrimps, trout, monkfish, goose, pork, grilled veal chops with mushrooms, chicken ham, and chicken salads, Chardonnay will pair smoothly.
Do not pair it with spicy dishes. Smoked fish and meats, light fresh cheese meals, seared salmon, or tomato based dishes are not ideal.
Being a wine of flavors, meals that are simply prepared suit it best so that they don’t have to do a contest of flavors on your taste buds.