It is believed to be named after the village of Chardonnay in the Māconnais region of France, and it is possible that the variety was first bred there. DNA fingerprinting research at the University of California, Davis suggests that Chardonnay has originated as a cross between Pinot and the Croatian Gouais Blanc grape varieties. Gouais Blanc is not popular in its own right and is almost extinct.
Chardonnay is also known by the names Aubaine, Beaunois, Melon Blanc, and, historically Pinot Chardonnay.
Chardonnay is made in a wide range of styles. In the U.S, it is often made using full malolactic fermentation and new oak, which yields a soft, wine, often with vanilla, caramel, and butter aromas. At the opposite end of the stylistic continuum is Chablis, much cooler than most winemaking regions, where most wines see little new oak, and malolactic is not typically used. This produces a significantly more acidic wine, with perhaps more influence from terroir. In the middle are Chardonnays from moderate climates, which can display tropical fruit flavors, and, depending on winemaking, a combination of the above characteristics. Chardonnay is also an important component in Champagne, and there are some 100% Chardonnay Champagnes, labeled blanc de blancs.
In 2001, Chardonnay stood 8th-ranked in global planting of grape varieties by area, with an estimated 140,000 hectares, mostly in the United States of America, France, Australia and Italy. Its popularity (and its vapidity, according to some) have caused a backlash from some wine lovers, who declare themselves interested in ABC, or Anything But Chardonnay.
In Australia and New Zealand, Chardonnay varietal wines are among the most popular white wines. Australia is one of the few locales where Chardonnay is commmonly blended to make a still wine. The traditional blending partner there is Semillon.