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The Many Sides of Chardonnay

If Cabernet is the King of Grapes, Chardonnay is probably the Queen. It’s the most popular wine among US drinkers with about 20% market share, and in California there’s more of this white grape planted than any other wine grape — 91,043 acres according to a report released last year by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Given its popularity and availability, making Chardonnay is a natural choice for a home winemaker.  The grape stands out for being made into very distinct styles dictated by climate, terroir, and winemaking preferences. There are arguably three main versions of still-wine Chardonnay. There’s a high-alcohol, oaky Chardonnay with powerful fruit and creamy flavors. Another full-bodied bottling of the grape comes unoaked with purer fresh fruit tastes like pear, apple and citrus. Both of those styles are typical of many Californian Chardonnays, but they’re also made all over the world. A third follows the French Burgundian model. These wines are often lower in alcohol, higher in acidity, and have more subtle oak integration, or no oak influence at all. To help you