Chardonnay is one of the most popular white wines in the world, and for good reason. Its crisp taste and delicious notes of vanilla, apple, and tropical fruits make it one of life’s great pleasures. Chardonnay is also one of the few white wines that can be aged. While many white wines lose their flavor after two years in the bottle, Chardonnay can keep improving for five to eight years. Many winemakers carefully age Chardonnay in oak barrels. Over time, the oak imparts toasty, buttery flavors to the wine.

The most common (but not exclusive) smell and/or flavor elements found in Chardonnay-based wines include:

Chardonnay Smell and/or Flavor Elements
Varietal Aromas/FlavorsProcessing Bouquets/ Flavors
Stone Fruits: apple, pear, peach, apricotMalolactic: butter, cream, hazelnut
Citric Fruits: lemon, lime, orange, tangerineOak (light): vanilla, sweet wood, coconut
Tropical Fruits: pineapple, banana,Oak (heavy): oak, smoke, toast, lees, yeast
Floral: acacia, hawthornTerroir: flint, mineral, mint

Tasting Chardonnay—or any other kind of wine—involves more than just your sense of taste; it also involves sight, smell, and a certain kind of touch.

1. Look at the Color

Hold your glass up to the light. Color can vary substantially, even within the same varietal.
Reds range in color from pale red to dark brown. White wines appear golden, sometimes with elegant green tints.

2. Follow Your Nose

Swirl the wine in your glass; it will release a range of delightful aromas. Then take a quick whiff for an initial impression. Finally, smell more deeply and slowly. You might notice flowers or fruit, an earthy scent or an oaky aroma.
What aromas do you smell?

3. Consider the Taste

Take a sip of wine, and then let it rest in your mouth for a moment before swallowing. Now consider the taste. Do you taste fruits or spices? Does the taste go away quickly or linger? Is it tart or sweet?
Practice helps distinguish the different qualities of individual wines.

4. Feel for the Body

Take another sip of wine. Before swallowing, take in a little air. This will activate your senses further. Notice how the wine feels in your mouth. How does the touch affect your tongue and throat as you swallow? Was the feel of the wine lean or rich, velvety or smooth, silky or sticky?