You don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to be familiar with Chardonnay — for many people, this grape has become synonymous with wine itself. The humble green-skinned grape, neutral in flavour, initially emerged from Burgundy in France. It is now grown across the globe’s wine-making regions. You already knew that, didn’t you?
Fewer people know that Chardonnay also plays a vital role in Sicilian wine production. When you imagine Sicilian white wines, you may think of Catarratto, Grillo, or Inzolia, but Chardonnay likely won’t be on your mind. You would be wrong! Chardonnay is an overlooked player in Sicilian white wine production, and the results can be delightful.
Chardonnay: A Brief History
Chardonnay originates from France’s Burgundy region, where it has been grown for centuries. Modern researchers and historians have concluded that the Chardonnay we know today resulted from a cross between two other grapes — Pinot noir and Gouais blanc. Third-century Roman Emperor Probus may have introduced both to France, which was then a Roman province.
Even more interesting is the fact that the name Chardonnay has Hebrew origins — Sha’ar Adonai means “gate of God”, and that is indeed, more or less, what modern drinkers seek from the wine as they imbibe.
In time, Chardonnay was transported and transplanted to the far corners of the world’s wine-making regions. What is the world’s fifth-most-planted grape doing in Sicily? A wine-producing region since the dawn of civilisation, Sicily suffered as much of its workforce left for America in the early 20th century. The Sicilian cooperatives of the 1960s turned to high-yielding, cheap grapes to keep going, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that quality took precedence over quantity again.
By the 1990s, family-run estates knew that something had to change, and this is when Sicilian wine-making underwent a true renaissance. Would it surprise you to learn that the famous Planeta Winery led the charge — with Chardonnay? That’s what happened, and Sicily’s famous DOC wines rose to prominence after this introduction.
What Do Sicily’s Chardonnay Wines Taste Like?
The fact that Chardonnay grapes have a bland — pleasant but neutral taste — partially explains what has made them so popular across the world. The end result heavily depends on a mixture of the growing environment and the wine-making methods employed.
Sicilian Chardonnay wines are crisp and balanced, with juicy peach tones, hints of sweet marzipan, and deep peat, roasted aromas. The grape has a moderate acidity and subtle hints of brine. Oak-aged Chardonnay wines acquire deep cinnamon and vanilla flavours.
Chardonnay from Sicily will surprise you every time, and enthusiasts on a quest to get a taste of Sicily won’t find themselves running out of options.
Which Wines Contain Chardonnay Grapes?
You will find Chardonnay in some of the white wines produced within the Alcamo, Sicilia, and Monreale DOCs, among others. The Chardonnay wines the Planeta Winery has produced have won several prestigious awards over the years, and any self-respecting wine lover should have a taste.
Chardonnay Food Pairings
Chardonnay is best paired with meat or fish — it shines in mild dishes that won’t drown its subtle flavours out. Opt for halibut, cod, crab, lobster, or pork chops, or for a mild squash risotto or grilled vegetables if you would like to enjoy a meat-free dish.
What is Chardonnay called in Italy?
Chardonnay in Italy has the same name and is widely planted more or less everywhere, resulting in producing some of the best Chardonnay in the world. Only in the ‘80s Sicilian farmers have introduced Chardonnay grape in the Island resulting in outstanding wines.
Does Italy have Chardonnay?
Chardonnay is very popular in Italy and widely planted more or less all over the peninsula. Sicily has introduced the Chardonnay only recently becoming the mark of the change in Sicilian winemaking to better compete with the rest of the world.
What Italian wine is like Chardonnay?
Although French Chardonnay is more widely recognised among wine drinkers, Chardonnay has also been grown in Italy for a long time; since the second half of the 19th century in fact. So it is an "Italian wine" in its own right, just not as well known as its French counterpart.
Where is Chardonnay from?
Chardonnay originated in the Burgundy region of France, and takes its name from a small town in the Maconnais, an area in southern Burgundy. It is important to remember that is one the most popular white wines in the worlds and one of the three main grapes used in Champagne.