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Wine column: Why Chardonnay is the most popular wine on the planet

For many wine lovers, when they ask for a glass of white wine what they really mean is: I want a glass of Chardonnay.

Chardonnay is so ubiquitous, the most popular wine in the world, in fact, that it's synonymous with white wine.

Chard has come by this status and fame honestly.

Originating from France's renowned Burgundy region, Chard is the signature white wine grape of the area (the red is Pinot Noir).

The two varietals are also the stars of the traditional sparkling wine Champagne.

</who>Chardonnay grapes at Coolshanagh Winery's estate vineyard in Naramata.

From France, Chard has spread over the globe because it's easy to grow in a wide variety of climates.

It can also be used to make many styles of complex, interesting and delicious wines.

That means Chard fermented in big stainless-steel tanks that is crisp and clean with aromas and flavours of crunchy apple and zippy lemon.

Or, age Chard in oak barrels and it's rich and creamy with a tropical fruit and vanilla profile.

Chard is the only white wine that undergoes malolactic fermentation -- the process that transforms bitter malic acid to softer lactic acid for a creamier, smoother drink.

Either oaked or unoaked, Chard is a joy to sip on its own or paired with food -- think oysters, mild cheese, fish and chicken with unoaked and pork tenderloin, aged cheeses and anything in a cream sauce with oaked.

Of course, BC has embraced Chard and makes all styles, but the tendency is to use less and older oak so the wines don't taste woody, but rather elegant, textured and multidimensional.

</who>Seven sensational examples of British Columbia Chardonnay -- from left, Blue Grouse Quill 2021 ($26), McWatters Collection 2020 ($35), Coolshanagh 2019 ($30), Coolshanagh 2019 Blanc de Blanc Sparkling (not released yet), Blasted Church 2021 ($24), Blasted Church 2021 Unorthodox ($22) and 2020 Haywire Garnet Valley Ranch Vineyard ($35).

Here are seven BC Chard you need to work into your drinking roster.

- Blue Grouse Quill 2021 ($26) from Vancouver Island's Cowichan Valley

Blue Grouse's inaugural Chard is light and contemporary, aged in older barrels.

- McWatters Collection 2020 ($35) from Penticton

Aged in oak barrels, but only 30% of them were new, so the resulting wine is textured, not oaky, with a baked apple and vanilla profile.

- Coolshanagh 2019 ($30) from Naramata

Coolshanagh specializes in only the Burgundy varietals of Chard and Pinot, so it's an expert.

Half-and-half aging in stainless steel and oak barrels creates a beguiling Chard with aromas and flavours of grilled pineapple and honey.

- Coolshanagh 2029 Blanc de Blanc Sparkling (not yet released)

Chard makes exceptional bubbly too, and this example, with secondary fermentation in the bottle to create the sparkle, is quintessential with its orange peel and fresh-baked croissant profile.

- Blasted Church 2021 ($24) from Okanagan Falls

Classic chard finished in older and only 15% new oak for elegant results.

- Blasted Church 2021 Unorthodox ($22)

So called because it hasn't touched oak like most other Chards.

That means a lemon zest and peach expression of the grape and wine.

- Haywire Garnet Valley Ranch Vineyard 2020 ($35) from Summerland

No oak here either.

Instead, stainless and innovative concrete tanks for a lean and citrusy winner.

</who>Fitzpatrick Winery in Peachland is ready for its Merry Fitzmas event tomorrow, noon to 4 pm.

So many festive events

'Tis the season for a myriad of Christmasy wine happenings.

- The 6th annual Festival of Trees at Mission Hill Family Estate in West Kelowna kicks off tonight, 5-8 pm, with the big tree light up, photos with Santa, mulled wine and hot chocolate.

Admission is $20 as a fundraiser for the BC Children's Hospital Foundation.

- Wineries along Summerland's Bottleneck Drive are 'Lighting Up the Vines' (literally, with Christmas lights) tomorrow, Dec. 1 and 2, 3-7 pm.

Wineries will also be open during those times and dates for tours and tastings.

- Winter in Wine Country is today, tomorrow and Sunday and Dec. 2-4 with wineries in Oliver and Osoyoos opening their doors for tastings and special events ranging from visits with Santa and wine advent calendar pickup to bonfires and fondue.

Check out for a full list of events.

- Tomorrow from noon to 4 p.m. at Fitzpatrick Winery in Peachland, Merry Fitzmas will see artisans set up in the wine shop and 15% off everything.

- Also tomorrow from noon to 5 pm, the BC Wine Info Centre at 553 Vees Dr. in Penticton is having an open house with wine tastings, local artisans, small bites and gift basket draws.

Steve MacNaull is a NowMedia Group reporter, Okanagan wine lover and Canadian Wine Scholar. Reach him at [email protected]. His wine column appears in this space every Friday afternoon.

Send your comments, news tips, typos, letter to the editor, photos and videos to [email protected].

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