Chardonnay is the king of white grape varieties. Although Riesling can produce even longer wines, and Sauvignon Blanc even sharper ones, the impressive number of quality wines made from Chardonnay grapes in the world gives it undisputed first place among all the world's white grape varieties. It's mainly thanks to the global spread of chardonnay and the trend towards varietal wines in the New World, but also in high-quality French vins de pays, that the term chardonnay has become a brand name, known even to the most sporadic wine drinker.

In the field of white wines, the success story of Chardonnay is unique - comparable at most to what is being done in the rest of the world.


In the field of red wines, this has happened with Cabernet Sauvignon and, more recently, with Merlot. On the other hand, the names of the French classics made from chardonnay, which contributed so decisively to its reputation, have faded somewhat into the background: Everyone knows chardonnay, most people who are remotely interested in wine probably still know chablis, but only those who are closely interested in french white wines of Burgundy know meursault, corton-charlemagne or montrachet - crus in which chardonnay reaches the summit of the wine Olympus.

The origin of Chardonnay remains unexplained. Since pinot noir's propensity to mutate had long been known, and had already given rise to pinot gris and pinot blanc, it was long thought that chardonnay was also a mutated member of the pinot family. It was therefore long called Pinot Chardonnay, until recently in certain regions of Italy.

Other theories seek the origins of Chardonnay in the Middle East, especially since it is grown in Lebanon.

chardonnay's origins in the Middle East, especially since it is grown in Lebanon.

and has been known in Israel for a very long time. Still other wine lovers refer to the Chardonnay locality in Burgundy, in the Mâconnais region, especially as Burgundy is the Mecca of Chardonnay in France. It's impossible to say, but there's no denying that Chardonnay has begun its triumphal march through the wine world in recent decades from France.

Because of its wide distribution, Chardonnay naturally gives rise to different styles of wine in the many corners of the world where it has found its place. What they all have in common, however, is a friendly, warm and uncomplicated nature, which has made it considerably more accessible to so many wine lovers around the world. The olfactory palette is broad: aromas of not-quite-ripe apples have already been described for poorer wines from cooler regions or early-harvested grapes, while others are more complex. wines give off aromas of redcurrants melon, banana and even exotic fruits. Some clones have a predominant nutmeg aroma, known as musky chardonnay. The Chardonnay Rosé mutation bears pink berries.

Chardonnay wines are generally full-bodied, often possessing high levels of alcohol and extract, and are well-structured.

Chardonnay wines are generally full-bodied, often possessing high levels of alcohol and extract, and are well-structured.

sustainable. Chardonnay's greatest secret is probably its adaptability: it thrives just as well in the northernmost vineyards of France, in the cool conditions of Chablis and Champagne, as in the hottest regions of Australia or Argentina, where it needs irrigation. And everywhere, it is capable of producing exceptional wines, which are often the best wines of the country concerned. Chardonnay is a very vigorous grape variety, requiring extensive leaf-thinning during the vegetation period, so that the grapes are not shaded by the foliage.

It reliably delivers fairly high yields, even if it can't match the quality of Riesling grapes with yields as high as its own. For Chardonnay, the limit lies somewhere above 70 hectolitres per hectare, beyond which it can only produce fine, modest wines, even in the best outdoor conditions. The variety buds early and is therefore sensitive to frost, which regularly causes problems, especially in Chablis, Burgundy and Champagne.

Green berries sometimes grow irregularly, and there's also a marked tendency to dwarfism...

Green berries sometimes grow irregularly, and also a marked tendency to dwarfism

Berries have already been observed in some clones. Only a few growers, oriented towards very high quality and very low yields, appreciate this phenomenon. In addition, Chardonnay has a marked tendency to coulure when the weather is cool and wet at flowering, which can reduce yields but, if the year's weather conditions are otherwise favorable, considerably increase final quality. Otherwise, Chardonnay is very undemanding in the vineyards and adapts to all soils that are, in principle, suitable for viticulture. It is only sensitive at the end of the vegetation period, when ripening has begun, as its berries are very thin-skinned and susceptible to grey rot in the event of heavy rain at harvest time.

Choosing the right harvest date is very important for Chardonnay, because when the grapes reach full ripeness, acidity begins to deteriorate rapidly, so that wines sold too late are rich in oil, but appear flat and broad due to their low acidity. The best chardonnay winesare, on the other hand, unique and inimitable:

Full-flavored and impressively full-bodied, they are distinguished by incomparable complexity, depth and red fruit flavor.

with a wealth of nuances. Chardonnay owes its fame to its classic production regions in France. First and foremost, Burgundy, where it is the principal white grape variety. In Côte d'Or, notably in the vineyards of Meursault, Aloxe-Corton, Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet on the Côte de Beaune, it produces wines that are considered the absolute benchmark of white wine production wherever this fashionable grape variety is grown today.

But Chardonnay also produces undisputed world-class wines on the Côte Chalonnaise, around the village of Pouilly, and in certain communes of AC Macon-Villages. Chardonnay wines from Chablis are also world-renowned. In the 1970s, despite a totally different, resolutely austere style, they became synonymous with Chardonnay in much of the New World, so that large quantities of the type's wines were produced in California, South Africa and Australia, although they are not authorized for export to the European Union, where the Chablis appellation d'origine is protected by law. Another center of Chardonnay cultivation in France is Champagne, where Chardonnay, along with the red varieties Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (Riesling Noir), is the only white variety used to produce noble sparkling wines.

The southern part of Champagne, the Côte des Blancs, is planted exclusively with Chardonnay, which corresponds to the appellation d'origine contrôlée.

The southern part of Champagne, the Côte des Blancs, is planted exclusively with Chardonnay, which corresponds to the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée.

Champagne elegance, finesse and longevity. 90 % of French Chardonnay vines are in Champagne or Burgundy. Chardonnay is also important in the Jura region, where it produces single-varietal wines, as well as in the Champagne region. long-keeping wines of character in blends with Savagnin, as well as large quantities of sparkling wines. Chardonnay wines from neighboring Savoy are also used for sparkling wine production. On the other hand, in Alsace, the Rhône, Bordeaux, the South-West and Provence, Chardonnay is virtually insignificant, while in the Loire, Languedoc-Roussillon and Corsica, it is not allowed to produce quality wines, but it does produce large quantities of single-varietal vins de pays, some of which are excellent.

In total, around 25,000 hectares of Chardonnay are now planted, and the trend is upwards. But this is far from being the majority of Chardonnay vineyards in France, as the surface area cultivated in France is still surpassed by that of California. Almost half of all white wine acreage is planted with Chardonnay, corresponding to a surface area of around 30,000 hectares. Chardonnay thrives best in cooler regions, which is why it is found particularly along the northern coasts, in Monterey, Napa and Sonoma counties.

The cooler climates produce particularly aromatic, zesty wines with pronounced fruity acidity when harvested early, while the more southerly regions, notably the Central Valley, produce more exuberant, stronger wines with exotic aromas but lower acidity. Wines from warmer regions are generally fermented and aged reductively in large stainless steel vats to preserve their freshness. Full-bodied wines from cooler regions, on the other hand, respond very well to ageing in new oak, with the best wines even being fermented in new oak barrels, the lees being regularly stirred with long rods slipped into the barrel bung.

Despite their totally different styles, the best Californian Chardonnays can compete with the best from mainland France. What's more, the variety is also present in the best Californian sparkling wines, provided they have taken the great sparkling wines of Champagne as their stylistic model. Chardonnay has also found its place in most other wine-producing states in the USA and Canada. In Argentina, Chile and South Africa, on the other hand, Chardonnay cultivation is progressing more slowly. Most production zones in these countries are too hot for Chardonnay, and irrigation techniques are not yet sufficiently adapted to the variety's precarious needs during grape ripening.

But it's only a matter of time before the first "New World Style" Chardonnays from these countries also reach European consumers. The situation is different in Australia, however, where Chardonnay now tops the list of grape varieties for white wines, with around 17,000 hectares. Australian Chardonnays reflect the rapid growth in winemaking skills among cellar masters on the fifth continent. Even in the lowest price category, they are white wines of character, with their rich fruitiness, lively acidity and generally accentuated spicy oak character.

The best Australian chardonnays, on the other hand, are among the world's finest white wines, with their extremely prodigious and rich nature. Chardonnays from New Zealand are even fresher and retain more acidity than their Australian counterparts, due to the much cooler climate. Chardonnays also prove - alongside wines made from Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling - that this South Pacific island state must be considered one of the world's most important suppliers of quality white wines.

In Europe, the expansion of Chardonnay has also spread to Italy, where it is known as "chardonizzazione". Although it was not originally authorized anywhere to produce DOC wines, some DOC zones have been created for single-varietal wines - including Chardonnay - notably in Trentino, South Tyrol and Piedmont, to avoid a development similar to that of red Super Tuscans. Elsewhere, single-varietal Chardonnays can obtain the IGT classification for vins de pays.

Chardonnay gives particularly good results in South Tyrol and Umbria, where Castello della Sala d'Antinori produces some remarkable wines in barrel. In Italy, Chardonnay is also used to produce sparkling wines. In Spain, Chardonnay vineyards are found mainly in the cooler, less dry northern wine-growing regions of Navarre, Somontano and Catalonia.

A large proportion is used to produce Cava, while the still wines are stylistically inspired by French models.

Particularly noteworthy is Miguel Torres' Milmanda Chardonnay from the Catalan DO Conca de Barberà, considered to be the finest in the world. best Chardonnay wine Spanish. This variety is also widespread in Austria, where it is often called Morillon in Styria - as in French Chablis. Vast areas of vines are also to be found in South-East Europe, notably in Romania, from where attractive wines are regularly produced. In Germany, Chardonnay was only authorized in 1991. Prior to that, it was the subject of experimentation in certain test plantations. Chardonnay also meets with opposition in Germany, who fear competition for the best terroirs between Chardonnay and Riesling. However, this fear is unfounded, as an examination of potential Chardonnay growing areas shows.

No one thought of planting Chardonnay on the Moselle, and likewise, the wine-growing regions of the Rhineland Hills, the Southern Palatinate Wine Route and Kaiserstuhl in Baden, which have so far succeeded in growing Chardonnay, are certainly not among the classic bastions of Riesling in Germany. Today, over 500 hectares in Germany are planted with Chardonnay vines. All in all, with its unique success story, Chardonnay now ranks fourth among the world's white grape varieties, behind Spanish Airén, Italian Trebbiano and Russian-Chinese Rkatsiteli.

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