Chardonnay is a varietal with one of the largest ranges when it comes to flavor profile and preference. Fruitiness can range from austere and chalky wet stone flavors to lemon balm to ripe tropical pineapple. Oak flavor can be powerful, weak or anything in between. Malic/Lactic ratios and concentrations, diacetyl and a whole host of secondary metabolites make the range of what Chardonnay can be enormous.
With so many different production options, Chardonnay is essentially a playground for winemakers. That’s why it continues to be one of the most popular varietals winemakers experiment with at Tastry.
Given the richness and complexity in Chardonnay, what are the chemical combinations inside the cépage’s best-sellers right now?
We decided to explore this at Tastry where we use state-of-the-art technology to analyze one million+ chemistry data points to decipher the flavor of a wine– what we call the Differentiated Flavor Profile, or “DFP”. (Learn more about this here.) Unique to the industry, Tastry’s chemical database stands as the sole commercially available resource that delves into the intricate chemistry underlying market trends.
Unveiling the Flavor Profiles of Top-Selling Chardonnays
In our recent analysis, we delved into the nuances of the best-selling Chardonnays in the United States. By examining the top 10 wines in each price bracket, from premium to super premium, we aimed to highlight the distinctive perceived flavors and aromas that distinguish the two categories.
The premium range is characterized by wines priced between $8.00 and $10.99 while the super premium spectrum spans from $11.00 to $14.99 using the IRI scale.
The spider chart shows the flavor profiles of each category mapped on a scale of 1-10 with 0 being the lowest and 10 being the highest. The chart shows ±1 standard deviation from the mean of each of the flavor categories. We have labeled the +1 standard deviation “upper range” and -1 standard deviation “lower range”.
Interestingly, the lower range of both premium and super premium categories exhibit remarkable similarity save for a nuanced dip in oakiness of the super premium category. This deviation can be attributed to the inclusion of some “unoaked” Chardonnays in the super premium category. It seems within the super premium category there is a broader range of oak profiles quite possibly to satisfy a wider range of consumer preferences.
Diving deeper, we see the primary distinctions between these two categories manifest in the upper range in both flavor profiles. Overall, super premium Chardonnays in the upper range are crisper, possess more pronounced oakiness, and exhibit robust aromatic presence.
Exploring the Key Distinction: Oak and Crispness
When it comes to oak levels in the upper range, super premium Chardonnays have an oak level of 4.4 out of 10 and premium have an oak level of 3.7 out of 10.
Upper range super premium Chardonnays have a crispness of 8.6 out of 10 and the upper range premium Chardonnays have a crispness level of 7.7 out of 10.
The most striking difference between these categories is in the oak levels of the super premium upper range (4.4 out of 10) and the premium lower range (0.7 out of 10). Moreover, the crispness level in the super premium upper range Chardonnays is much higher (8.6 out of 10) than its lower range premium counterpart (6 out of 10).
This observation aligns with the traditional belief that higher quality– and higher-priced– Chardonnays are characterized by high acidity and oak content.
The Correlation Between More Resources and Super Premium Flavor Profiles
Indeed, the Chardonnays associated with these high-quality characteristics can be more expensive to produce because they require more resources.
When building super premium wines, winemakers will often execute better precision in harvest date management and strategic acid additions which yield crisper wines. The higher budget for oak correlates with a heightened oak impression and rigorous monitoring of primary and secondary fermentations intensifies aromatic potency.
However, what if you want to produce a super premium wine on a minimal oak budget?
The Case for Tastry CompuBlend®
Today, Tastry CompuBlend® is helping winemakers optimize their oak budget to produce wines that meet their quality goals. With Tastry, building a super premium wine with a competitive cost structure is now more accessible.
Additionally, the Tastry Insights Dashboard shows you the chemical composition driving the flavor and aroma profile of your wines alongside your competitive set and the industry’s top performers.
Tastry’s detailed comparative dataset encompasses upper and lower ranges for:
- Acids: Including malic and lactic acid
- Oak Constituents: Such as cis oak lactone, eugenol, furfural, furfuryl ethyl ether, guaiacol, isoeugenol, 5-methylfurfural, 4-methylguaiacol, trans oak lactone, and vanillin
- Secondary Fermentation Products: Including diacetyl, diethyl succinate, and ethyl lactate
- Also included: Panels for higher alcohols, aldehydes, and esters
- To view more, click here
Each Tastry sample analysis unveils the appeal of your wine to U.S. consumers across various sentiment metrics.