Terroir Versus Winemaking: What Makes a Good Style of Wine?

We try 12 chardonnays to find the most ideal style

We are led to believe that in addition to each winery’s house style, wines convey a sense of place. This idea, referred to by its French name, terroir, suggests that a wine tastes a specific way because of the confluence of distinct environmental effect that a vineyard or region imprints on their fruit.

Chardonnay is a notoriously transparent variety, one that allows winemakers to mold it into a specific style, but one that also allows its terroir to shine through quite distinctly, or so we are lead to believe. With so many regions acclaimed for their chardonnay, and so many examples from around the world, it’s an ideal candidate to use when looking for a little evidence that terroir exists. In the broadest sense, terroir for a region should at least convey some information about the climate that each region enjoys.

I chose a dozen examples of chardonnay to test out this hypothesis, opening two wines from each of six regions to see if they shared any traits, and if those traits differed in any significant way from the traits exhibited by neighboring regions. Since California chardonnay is so popular in this country, with many regions held in high esteem, I focused on the wines from some of the appellations most readily associated with chardonnay, while also throwing in Oregon and France for comparisons sake. What do the results say? Let’s take a look at the wines.

Click here to find out more about chardonnays from Sonoma and France. 

Related Stories
5 Best Food Pairings for ChardonnayHow to Define TerroirBe a Winemaker for a Day

— Gregory Dal Piaz, Snooth