In the Chablis region of France, it is the only grape permitted and it renders a "crisp, flinty" wine. Even in quality sparkling wines and French Champagne, it is the major varietal used. California Chardonnay is every bit as variable and possibly even more exciting because of the effusive varietal quality it develops there. In spite of this variety in style, Chardonnay is unmistakable in the mouth because of its impeccable sugar/acid balance, its full body, and its easy smoothness.

Unfortunately, chardonnay vines are shy-bearing and susceptible to a myriad of maladies. Chardonnay berries are relatively small, thin-skinned, fragile, and oxidize easily. This makes chardonnay somewhat more sensitive to winemaking techniques and more difficult to handle from harvest to bottling than most other grape types.
Different winemaking techniques also produce wide variances in the Chardonnay flavor profile. Such techniques as barrel fermentation, proportion of new to old cooperage, lees stirring, and partial, complete, or prevention of malolactic fermentation generate controversy and lively discussion among winemakers.

Chardonnay's intrinsic blank canvas quality also allows its flavors to be dramatically affected by differences in soil, climate, and vineyard practices.
Its aroma is distinct, yet delicate, difficult to characterize, easier to recognize. It often smells like apples, lemons, peaches or tropical fruits. Its delicacy is such that even a small percentage of another varietal blended into a Chardonnay will often completely dominate its aroma and flavor. Oak commonly takes over Chardonnay if the wine is fermented or aged in new barrels or for too long in seasoned ones.