White wine lovers like to debate Chardonnay vs Sauvignon Blanc. These classic white wines come in a wide range of styles at the wine shop. Keep reading to find out how to become a more informed wine drinker.
Chardonnay vs Sauvignon Blanc: How Do They Taste?
You’re looking at Sauvignon Blanc vs Chardonnay on a restaurant wine list or at the wine shop. How do you decide which one to enjoy? The first step is simple – learn their flavor profiles.
This popular white grape variety is made all over the world in many different styles.
- Primary Fruit Flavors. Chardonnay white wine usually tastes like apple, lemon, and pineapple.
- Additional Flavors. Oak aging usually adds additional flavors of vanilla and a buttery quality.
- Aroma. The aroma profile varies depending on the style. Typically, you will notice tropical fruits, peaches, lemons, and notes of apples.
- Alcohol Content. Wine experts consider Chardonnay (including Bourgogne Chardonnay) to have relatively high alcohol content (i.e., 13.5% to 14.5%). You may even see 15% alcohol content Chardonnay in some cases.
Note that Chardonnay white wine changes taste depending on whether it was aged in oak. For an easy comparison, pick up a bottle of Chablis (an unoaked style of Chardonnay from France) and oaked Chardonnay from a California winery in the Napa Valley. You will immediately notice flavors of vanilla and a buttery quality.
Sauvignon Blanc Flavor
- Primary Fruit Flavors. A dry Sauvignon Blanc tastes quite different from other white wines. Expect to taste lime, passion fruit, white peach, and bell pepper.
- Additional Flavors. Some people love the herbal flavors and acidity in Sauvignon Blanc. These aspects of the wine make the wine quite refreshing when you open a bottle in a warm climate.
- Aroma. The aroma profile of this white wine is quite varied. Expect to notice green pepper, grapefruit, and passion fruit.
- Alcohol Content. Sauvignon Blanc has a slightly lower alcohol content than Chardonnay. Expect to see 12.5-14% alcohol content when you pick a typical bottle up at the wine shop.
Armed with the above insight, you are well on your way to chatting about wine with wine experts.
Chardonnay vs Sauvignon Blanc: The Biggest Differences
To summarize the key differences between these white wines, wine experts usually focus on the following aspects.
- Alcohol Content. On average, Chardonnay has a higher alcohol content than Sauvignon Blanc. Keep the difference in alcohol levels in mind so that you keep your drinking moderate.
- Sweetness. Sauvignon Blanc is generally considered sweeter than Chardonnay. That said, keep in mind that both of these white wines are usually made in a dry style.
- Food Pairings. In simple terms, Sauvignon Blanc goes well with light food like salads and plates of seafood. In contrast, the creamy flavor of Chardonnay means that it goes well with richer foods such as creamy dishes.
- Body. Most wine critics point out that Chardonnay is a dry, full-bodied white wine. In comparison, Sauvignon Blanc is considered to be a medium-bodied white wine.
Chardonnay vs Sauvignon Blanc: Notable Wine Regions
These two white wine grapes are produced in many different regions. To better navigate your local wine shop and restaurant, here are some wine regions of note.
Chardonnay Wine Regions
- France. Look for a white Burgundy bottle of wine like a Chablis. Note that a Chablis will not say Chardonnay on the wine label. French wines, including the best Gamay wine, usually do not list the wine grape on the label. For more insight, check out my article on Petit Chablis. Not that Burgundy usually produces unoaked chardonnays.
- USA. Go to California and look for Napa Valley, Monterey County, and Santa Barbara County. In particular, California chardonnay is noted for aging wine in oak barrels rather than stainless steel barrels. California Chardonnay is often noted for its creamy textures.
- Other Regions. As one of the most famous wine grapes globally, Chardonnay is also grown in many other places like Mendoza (Argentina) and Puglia (Italy).
Tip: For a fun wine tasting at home, compare a warm region Chardonnay from California to Chardonnay from cooler regions like Ontario or France. By tasting multiple wines from different regions, you will be well on the wine to become your family’s resident wine expert.
Sauvignon Blanc Wine Regions
Beginner wine drinkers, take note. Sauvignon Blanc comes in a range of flavors depending on where it is made. If you don’t happen to like California Sauvignon Blanc, try a bottle from the Loire Valley and see if you like that better.
- New Zealand. Outside of Europe, New Zealand has developed a reputation for making outstanding Sauvignon Blanc. In particular, look for the Marlborough region.
- France. Look for the Loire Valley in France! By the way, the Loire Valley is also home to some of France’s most impressive castles. It is an excellent destination for a wine tasting trip.
- USA. American Sauvignon Blanc is produced all along the west coast. You can get a warm climate bottle from California or a cooler climate bottle from Washington or Oregon.
Food Pairings: Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay
Beginner wine drinkers, fans of Wine Folly, and wine critics all agree on one point. The right food pairing can add a great deal of enjoyment to your wine experience (so you might want to know what cheese with Chardonnay is ideal). To bring out the primary fruit flavors in the wine and other qualities, try the following ideas.
Sauvignon Blanc Food Pairings
- Meat Dishes. Keep it light. Specifically, choose white meats like chicken, pork, and turkey are a good bet.
- Fish Dishes. Fish is a long-standing companion for this white wine. Halibut, cod, lobster, bass, and salmon can all work well.
- Vegetarian Dishes. Prefer a salad of leafy greens? Fantastic. Sauvignon Blanc will is refreshing and works well with many vegetables. Go easy on the dressing, though.
Chardonnay Food Pairings
- Meat Dishes. This white wine goes well with poultry and pork dishes.
- Fish Dishes. Shellfish like shrimp, lobster, and crab works well. In addition, you can try cod and halibut with Chardonnay.
- Vegetarian Dishes. Avocado and cream-based dishes can work exceptionally well with Chardonnay.
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