Is Chardonnay Sweet Or Dry? Not As Simple As You May Think

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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To simply put it, Chardonnays are usually produced as a dry wine. But like all wines, there are residual sugars that are left behind because grapes have some in them. 

This means that Chardonnays can give you a perception of sweetness, depending on which ones you buy. It depends on some factors that give it the sweet fruity flavor. 

Not sure how it gets its sweetness? We will discuss in depth below the difference between sweet and dry so that you can make an informed decision the next time you purchase Chardonnay.

Woman drinking chardonnay sitting in a bath tub - is it sweet or dry?

Have a Preference for Sweet or Dry Wine and Want to Try Chardonnay?

If you like sweet and dry wine, you will probably enjoy Chardonnay. Most people associate Chardonnay being a drier wine with a crisp flavor. But it can be sweeter because a lot of Chardonnays are produced with secondary flavors.  

It also depends on where the wine is made. You’ll get the drier and more acidic wine if it’s made in a cooler climate such as California (the northern parts). On the other hand, suppose you were to buy Chardonnay, which was made in Italy.

In that case, these types typically have a higher alcohol content, and you can really taste the tropical fruity flavors that make the Chardonnay sweeter. With that said, there are plenty of Chardonnays that cater to both sweet and dry preferences. 

Is Chardonnay sweeter or drier than other white wines?

Chardonnay is one of the driest white wines out there, after Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. You can taste some fruit such as citrus, pear, and apple to get some sweetness. But again, it depends on where it was grown and how it was raised.

How can you tell if a Chardonnay is as sweet or dry as I like before I buy it?

You would have to have some knowledge of Chardonnay before buying it. However, you can tell by the alcohol content and the description on the bottle to tell you how sweet or dry it is. Chardonnay from a cooler climate will probably have a lower alcohol content (usually under 15% abv) and will be light-bodied. 

If you’re looking for something sweeter, but there’s no way to taste the wine, Chardonnays with higher alcohol content and warmer regions may have the sweeter flavors you are looking for.

If you know the winemaker brand name, visit their website to get an idea of how they make the Chardonnay. All of them will tell you where the grapes are grown and how the process works. 

Are there sweet versions of Chardonnay?

Chardonnay is primarily a dry wine. But yes, there are “sweet” versions of Chardonnay. These Chardonnays are often fermented for less time and often made in oak barrels. Oak barrels help these Chardonnays to develop sweeter flavors. 

Winemaking process of making sweeter Chardonnay

Winemakers using an oak barrel for Chardonnays will often get a sweeter result. This is because the wine in the oak barrels goes through a malolactic fermentation, which gives the Chardonnay the semi-sweet flavor that has hints of vanilla, caramel, and sometimes baking spices. This type of Chardonnay can be of desert quality, even though it’s a dry wine.

How does an oak barrel affect the chardonnay sweetness? 

It affects the sweetness of the wine because of the sugar compounds from the wood that add to it as a secondary flavor. While in the barrel, the sugars will be slowly released overtime to make the semi-sweet Chardonnay.

Sweeteners are sometimes added

When buying a sweeter chardonnay, make sure you buy from winemakers who don’t add too many sweeteners. Chardonnays are supposed to be at most semi-sweet, not too sweet where it could be like a Moscato. Some may add a small amount just to extend the wine’s shelf life, but some may also add a lot of sweeteners to make up for the lower quality of their grapes.

When it’s harvested

Believe it or not, the longer a grape is on the vine, the riper it gets and the more sugar it will contain. As a result, the grape is not as acidic, and this often results in a sweeter chardonnay. Warmer regions like to leave the grapes on the vines longer for this reason, as it will develop the tropical fruit flavors.

The dry Chardonnay that we know is usually early harvest, more tart, and more acidic. 

Final Thoughts on Chardonnay Being Sweet Or Dry

Chardonnays can be semi-sweet or dry. Both versions have their own processes of becoming either sweet or dry. Whichever you prefer, Chardonnays go good with meals and even by themselves.

With this knowledge about sweeter and drier Chardonnay, you now have the choice to decide which one you prefer and enjoy it as well.