What should I eat with Chardonnay? If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me that question, I’d be a gazillionaire by now! And guess what? “Chicken and fish” is not a good answer.
Chardonnay is the Emperor of all white wines. It is undoubtedly the world’s most famous white wine and the most-planted grape variety. It has something to offer every kind of wine lover. The sommelier in me considers it a cardinal sin to ruin a good bottle of chardonnay with the wrong kind of food.
What I love most about Chardonnay is its versatility! It can grow in different climates and soil conditions. The taste varies vastly by region. Chardonnay varieties can range from unoaked to heavily oaked. To create a harmonious chardonnay food pairing, you must consider its “oakiness”, alcohol content, body, and acidity.
We are here to provide a few essential tips on how to make every bite of your food and every sip of your chardonnay taste delightful together. For food and wine pairing tips in general, definitely check out our guide: How to Pair Food and Wine.
The Dos and Don’ts of Chardonnay Food Pairings
Let’s start with some important “Chardonnay Rules”.
Generally, unoaked and lightly oaked varieties are easier to pair than their heavily oaked companions. Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind while pairing a bottle of Chardonnay.
What You Can Do With Chardonnay
- Pair unoaked Chardonnay with mildly flavored fish dishes like lightly seasoned salmon or halibut. The acidity in young, unoaked Chardonnay is also a wonderful balance for the fattiness of salmon.
- Unoaked Chardonnay is also an excellent accompaniment for lightly dressed shellfish and other seafood like crab and prawns.
- Crisp, unoaked varieties go well with fresh, soft and creamy cheeses.
- Oaky varieties pair beautifully with grilled or roasted chicken as well as delicately flavored pork dishes
- Chardonnay also goes well with creamy dishes like risottos, pastas and creamy soups, but look for something balanced and clean. Too buttery, and you’ll end up with a weighty palate. Too much acidity could clash.
- Believe it or not, you can serve Chardonnay with snacks like popcorn and tortilla chips. A fruity Chardonnay with a bit more weight and residual sugar makes for a nice balance.
Ideal serving temperature for Chardonnay is around 48 to 50 F, or 10 to 12 C. For more complex or older and valuable bottles, like a Chablis, don’t be afraid to serve them a little warmer to allow the flavors to emerge.
What You SHOULD NOT DO With Chardonnay
- If you desperately want a Chardonnay with pungent or fiery foods, spice-based cuisines like Indian, Mexican, Sichuan, Thai etc., avoid an overly oaked one. While fruit and gloss on the palate makes a beautiful match, all the butterscotch and vanilla could annihilate those beautiful exotic flavors.
- Do not pair light and fruity Chardonnay with high-acid, aged cheeses like Parmesan or Pecorino. Chardonnay is known for its bright acidity and you could end up with an unpleasant sensation on your palate.
- Likewise, do not serve Chardonnay with high-acid foods like salads with vinaigrettes or pickles and capers.
- Thinking of serving Chardonnay with strawberries? Try adding a bit of whipped cream for mellow it out.
What Food Should You Pair with Chardonnay?
Let’s fast forward to the good stuff. I have put together a list of Chardonnay food recipes that are guaranteed to level up your hosting skills whether you’re preparing for a casual movie night or a fancy backyard soiree with your friends.
Appetizers and Snacks
Lightly Spiced Ricotta Pastry Cups with Green Apple and Mint
This dish is guaranteed to be a raging success with your vegetarian friends. The light, fluffy texture of the pastry coupled with the creamy, soft texture of the ricotta cheese and the mildness of the spices makes it the perfect homemade appetizer to go with practically any style of Chardonnay.
Wine Pairing: As seen in my video, Chardonnay Pairing Tips I paired this recipe with a bottle of America’s own Bogle Vineyards Chardonnay fermented in new American oak barrels for 9 months. This wine is certified sustainable and produced in the Bogle Vineyards of Northern California. For Bogle Chardonnay, half of the grapes are fermented in oak barrels which imparts a classic buttery quality along with a finish of fresh-baked pie. There is some stainless-steel fermented juice in the mix as well, for balance, which offers lovely zesty acidity and distinctive notes of green apple.
As long they aren’t the central citrus flavors pair well with Chardonnay, and will accentuate the tropical fruit notes of the wine in a beautiful way.
Cold-Smoked Salmon with Dill and Crème Fraiche on Sesame Crisp
This delicious appetizer pairs really well with oaked Chardonnay wines thanks to the moist, silky texture and smokiness of the salmon. As cold-smoked salmon is thinly sliced not cooked, the taste does not overpower the flavors of the wine nor vice-versa, and the sweet spice notes from the oak temper the smoke in the salmon.
Wine Pairing: I paired this appetizer with a Catena Chardonnay which is made with grapes from four different vineyards each with different soil types, including some alluvial, volcanic soil that imparts a smoky mineral note. A lovely suggestion of smoked salmon without taking it over the top.
Mendoza is a mountainous region that gets a lot of sun, not a lot of rain and experiences great temperature fluctuations. That means big, juicy grapes and a lot of round fruity flavors as well as those flinty mineral notes. Part of this wine is also aged in oak, so you have a full spectrum of sumptuous Chardonnay to play with.
Roasted Chicken Legs with Lemon and Thyme
Who doesn’t like roasted chicken? It is a simple and easy to make dish which has many variations and pairs well with a number of wines. I don’t know about you, but this roasted chicken could even be an appetizer. Our succulent and moist roasted chicken recipe goes really well with both oaked and unoaked Chardonnay, but I tend to lean towards something with very little oak for this recipe.
Wine Pairing: This recipe makes a lovely pairing with Chablis Premier Cru “Vaillons,” Defaix 2005. It is priced above $50 but well worth every penny. This Chablis has an extraordinary nose, complete with the distinctive mineral notes that make Chablis famous, along with evolved ripe fruit qualities.
The crispy chicken skin strikes a perfect balance with the energy and verve of acidity present in the wine, while the super-long finish and mouth-watering palate exalts the luminous flavors of lemon and thyme.
Can anyone possibly say no to a well-prepared plate of halibut paired with a great glass of Chardonnay? This Herb-Crusted Halibut Recipe has a flaky, tender and moist yet firm texture. You should be extremely careful not to overcook it as overcooked halibut tends to be dry. The herbs and lemon zest perfectly complement the rich, buttery flavors of oaky wine.
Wine Pairing: This recipe goes well with rich and oaked Chardonnays. You should be able to find something like Beringer 2012 Private Reserve Chardonnay from Napa Valley. It is a full-bodied white wine with peachy and fruity undertones as well as butterscotch flavors thanks to the use of new French oak.
Roasted Pork Tenderloin
It is often said that white wine should not be paired with red meat. Now this is true in some cases not all. Pork is the middle way, and this roasted pork tenderloin recipe pairs beautifully with Chardonnay. The tenderness of the meat and the delicious pork juices mingle incredibly well with both light and full-bodied Chardonnays although the latter will really stand up to the natural flavors of the meat. And what more? You can make this dish in just 30 minutes! What are you waiting for?
Wine pairing: Chardonnay Réserve Le Vin Vivant 2009, 14%! This is an alpine wine from the canton of Vaud on the stunning Swiss Alps. It is an elegant, rich and full-bodied wine with undertones of pineapple, lemon, vanilla and butter. You can also pair it with Swiss cheese.
Simple Vanilla Cake with Buttercream Frosting
This is one of my top picks for pairing Chardonnay with a sweet treat. Although Chardonnay is not a dessert wine, you can successfully serve it with simple and light desserts. Vanilla cake is a great example! It is a soft yet rich dessert that makes for an elegant combo with dear old Chardonnay. I would go for a light, unoaked bottle to complement fluffiness of the cake and the silky texture of the frosting
Wine pairing: This kind of dessert calls for a wine like 2017 A to Z Wineworks Chardonnay. Sold at just $15 per bottle, this fresh and lively wine is one of America’s best-selling unoaked wines. You get citrus, pear and peach flavors along with a vibrant acidity that is characteristic of cooler climates.
Cheese Platter as Dessert
Although this is not a conventional dessert in the United States, this European dessert alternative is has been adopted by many Americans. I like to make a simple cheese board with Goat Cheese, Brie and Camembert. The creamy texture of these cheeses makes a lovely pairing with Chardonnay. Accompany your plate with some dried apricot and even some ripe pineapple to tease your nose into finding some of those tropical notes of Chardonnay.
Wine Pairing: Pair your cheese platter with a light and unoaked Chardonnay like 2015 Pellegrini Unoaked Russian River Valley.
Chardonnay is truly an exciting wine variety with endless possibilities. If you want to open a bottle of Chardonnay for a meal, think about all the dishes you can pair it with as well as the flavors and acidity of the wine. When in doubt, just pair rich foods with rich, oaky Chardonnay and simple, subtle foods with light, unoaked ones.