Chardonnay: king of the white grape varieties
This week, we have to talk to you about the most famous white grape variety, one of the most planted in the world and originating in Burgundy: Chardonnay.
What is Chardonnay? Where does it come from?
Genetic analysis has shown that it is the result of a cross-pollination between Gouais, a very old medieval grape variety, and Pinot Noir. It has relatively small and elongated clusters. Its grapes evolve during the veraison to a beautiful golden color. This is why it is often called the "golden grape". Chardonnay is an early variety. Its first buds appear early, which makes it sensitive to spring frosts.
It is used to make both still and sparkling wines and sometimes even sweet wines.
The Chardonnay variety also exists in pink, discovered in Burgundy in the vineyards of Marsannay, but also in Champagne, in Rilly-la-Montagne. It is registered in the "Catalogue of vine varieties" since 2018.
About twenty kilometers north of Macon the village of Chardonnay, would have given its name to the famous grape variety. This wine-growing commune can, along with twenty-six other villages, mention on the label of its wines the name "Chardonnay" after that of Mâcon: Mâcon-Chardonnay.
Burgundy, and in particular the Côte d'Or, remains the stronghold of Chardonnay, where it occupies 51% of the total wine-growing area of the region. It produces great wines such as Chassagne-Montrachet, Meursault, or Corton Charlemagne. The Chardonnay will also appreciate the clay-limestone soils of the Maconnais. It is so deeply rooted in the region that in the Chablis vineyards, it was even called "Beaune".
In France, it represents alone 6% of the vineyard! In addition to Burgundy, Chardonnay is cultivated in Champagne where it can be used as a single variety (Blanc de Blanc) or as a blend. It is also present in Languedoc-Roussillon, where it is used in the composition of crémant and blanquette de Limoux. It is found almost everywhere, in the Loire, Bugey, in the wines of Savoy, in Beaujolais, etc.
In the world
200,000 hectares of Chardonnay grape variety are planted today in 40 countries in the world, because it is very adaptable to all types of climates. It is produced in all the major wine-producing countries, in Spain, South Africa, Italy, Bulgaria, in the Adelaide Hills and Margaret River regions in Australia, in the Casablanca Valley in Chile and in the Mendoza region in Argentina. There, we find rich and complex Chardonnay wines! In California, in the United States, there are almost as many Chardonnay plants as in France. It will be very buttery, woody and rather opulent and demonstrative. In Canada, it is one of the most successful grape varieties. Some wines from the Niagara Peninsula and Prince Edward County are of exceptional quality.
Celebrated every May 21, the village of Chardonnay has organized since 2015, a Burgundian variation of the "Chardonnay Day" born in California 10 years ago and relayed to all corners of the world. "We want wine lovers to connect more and more the grape variety to its origin", explains Emmanuel Nonain, winegrower and co-organizer of the "Chardonnay Day" of Chardonnay.
Chardonnay has the ability to adapt everywhere, while revealing each time, the particular expression of the soil in which it is planted. From one region to another, from one appellation to another, from one bottle to another, Chardonnays are truly different. Rosemary George, an English author and journalist, one of the first women to be awarded the title of Master of Wine, wrote "Chablis is Chardonnay but not every Chardonnay is Chablis".
In the cooler areas it is drier and livelier, and gives mineral notes, and fresh fruit notes like apple, pear and citrus (lemon, grapefruit). In warmer areas, it is fatter, more opulent, and moves towards riper white fruit and tropical fruit aromas such as banana, pineapple.
In general, in France, Chardonnay gives wines of extraordinary finesse and great elegance thanks to the terroirs in which it is planted, but beware, this is not the case everywhere.