The biddies round out the noble grapes series with Chardonnay – either you love it or you hate it, but this full bodied white takes on most of its characteristics from the winemaker! Learn what to expect from Chardonnays from around the world.

Listen:

Listen here.

On Spotify

On Apple Podcasts

We’re also on Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Player.fm, Overcast, CastBox and iVox

Sources:

Ultimate Guide to Chardonnay – Wine School | Firstleaf

A short history of Chardonnaye (uncork.biz)

Introduction to Chardonnay – In Good Taste

Australia’s First Chardonnay – Pieter van Gent Winery & Vineyard (pvgwinery.com.au)

Surprising History of Australian Chardonnay (sansdrinks.com.au)

Best Australian Chardonnay: 25 wines showing the drink’s evolution (cluboenologique.com)

Putting South African Chardonnay in a Global Context : Vinography

The Story of How Chardonnay Came to South Africa | JAN (janonline.com)

Society of Wine Educators, Certified Specialist of Wine Study Guide

White Burgundy: The Ultimate French Chardonnay | Wine Folly

Wine Simple by Aldo Sohm

Sonoma County, History of Chardonnay

Italian Wine Tales, Italian Chardonnay

https://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/the-story-of-california-chardonnay-part-2

Study Notes On Cabernet Sauvignon:

*Please note these are our literal notes and may be copy and pasted from sources listed above.

“Whereas varieties such as Pinot Noir or Riesling are often though of as primarily communicating place, some suggest that Chardonnay wines might more often demonstrate specificity of intent than place”

BACKGROUND: 

  • Chardonnay is found in more wine regions than any other varietal
  • A green skinned grape which was named after a commune named Chardonnay in the Maconnais region found in the southernmost parts of Burgundy
    • Name comes from Cardonnacum meaning “place full of thistles”
  • Until recent genetic testing, there were many theories about the origin of Chardonnay; maybe it originated from Muscat grape, some said Cyprus or the MIddle East dating back to the Crusaders returning from the Holy Land
  • Some say the word comes from the Hebrew phrase “Sha’har Adonai” which means “gate of God” and according to the Mishna, golden grapes were placed above the temple gate’s door in Jerusalem associating the grape with the gate of God
  • Varietal is a crossbreed; half Pinot Noir and half Gouais Blanc (Gouais Blanc is believed to have originated in Croatia and spread through the Roman empire)
    • Pinot Noir is a tricky grape but Gouais Blanc (the peasant’s choice) due to it’s high yields and hardiness and simple flavors 
    • Intentionally or purely by chance, the two vines cross pollinated
  • “The grape with many faces (and names), chardonnay can range from fresh and focused to rich and powerful.” (Wine Simple)

ORGANOLEPTICS

  • Straw yellow color
  • A mix of floral and fruity notes, potentially some peach, apple, pear and tropical fruits
  • With oak can, be buttery, vanilla, toast
  • Malolactic fermentation: a process where tart malic acid in wine converts to softer, creamier, lactic acid
  • Reflective of the terroir but most important reflective of the choices of the winemaker
    •  The aromatic suggestion of butter or cream is a product of a process blocked in most other white wines: malolactic (or ML) fermentation, in which lactic acid bacteria transform malic acid (a tart acid prevalent in apples) into lactic acid (a softer, creamier acid prevalent in dairy products). When ML is employed on Chardonnay, a byproduct called diacetyl adds to the buttery effect.

HISTORY

  • Grape’s first champions were the Cistercian monks who in the 14th century set up the first Chardonnay vineyards were the emphasis was on the development of this vine only
  • They also the first who recognized that different vineyards planted with the same grapes produced different results due to variations 

FRANCE

  • This is the ancestral home of Chardonnay
  • Chardonnay makes up about 60% of Burgundian production
  • Chablis and Macconnais
  • First reliable mention of Chardonnay comes from the 1600s in Maconnais but earliest recorded reference to Chardonnay occurs in 1330s 
  • Believed to have been planted around Burgundy and along the Cote de Beaune up to Chablis even earlier
  • Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, and Chassagne-Montrachet are arguably the greatest chardonnays on earth
  • Bourgogne Blanc – unoaked simple wines with mineral and apple notes that are about 15-20 a bottle
  • Charblis – unoaked wines that are zippier and a bit more expensive (20-30)
  • Maconnais – usually unaoked with fruit forward melon and startfuit notes (15-20 bucks)
  • Cote de Beaune – this is the best of the white burgundies and you will start to se a bit more oaking to it. Maybe around 40+
  • White burgundy is just chardonnay but it is the world’s most popular grape
  • “Some would say white Burg is the crack cocaine of Chardonnay”
  • Arrived in Champagne around the end of the 18th century and was a late addition to the Sparkling Champagne wines..

UNITED STATES

  • History in CA
    • Chardonnay arrived in the United States prior to Prohibition. Its earliest years are somewhat confused. Clonal identification at the time was both more difficult and to some degree also less of a priority compared with today’s practices. In several cases, Chardonnay was confused with Pinot Blanc and in some cases with Melon de Bourgogne as well. The impact of these misidentifications is such that some regions of California technically had the variety before they knew they did
    • Everything changed for Chardonnay in 1976, when, in a blind tasting since dubbed the “Judgement of Paris,” French wine experts judged Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay the better of several white Burgundies from top vineyards in Montrachet and Meursault. Although Montelena is a Napa Valley winery, the majority of the fruit that went into the 1973 Chardonnay came from Sonoma County vineyards from Bacigalupi Vineyards.
  • California: Often heavily oaked and can be treated with inexpensive oak chips to make it soak up more flavor
  • “The cliches about California chardonnays exist for a reason, but there is a generational shift occurring” (Wine Simple)
    • Between 2004 and 2014 a lot of young winemakers had internships in France?
    • Santa Rita Hills and Santa Barbara becoming known for more burgundy like freshness but with the lushness of CA fruit
  • Oregon: known for more linear, citrusy styles than CA
    • Prominent in Wilamette

ITALY

Historically, the Italian chardonnay region has always been concentrated in the north-east thanks to the favorable cool climates of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trentino and Alto Adige (which was the first Chardonnay DOC). Like many food and wine stories in history, it was used by accident in Trentino-Alto Adige when the locals confused it with Pinot Blanc

Whilst you can find pure chardonnay in Italy, a lot of the fruit is used for Italy’s premium sparkling wines like Franciacorta and Trento DOC. It’s really easy to grow this grape (you’ll find chardonnay just about everywhere around the world), so don’t be surprised if you find it even in the hot climate of Sicily!

When looking to buy Italian Chardonnay, consider these as the best regions:

  • Trentino-Alto Adige
  • Veneto
  • Friuli-Venezia-Giulia
  • Valle d’Aosta

What does Italian chardonnay taste/smell like?

What we’re all here for – tell us what we can expect when we dive into a glass of chardonnay from Italy? If you’re drinking one from the north, expect to smell and/or taste:

  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Green apple
  • Pear
  • Good minerality

What are the most popular Italian chardonnay brands?

  • Angelo Gaja
  • Planeta
  • Cantina Tramin
  • Alois Lagedar
  • Les Crêtes

AUSTRALIA 

  • In 1832 Chardonnay grapes were first imported into Australia by James Busby and were divided between Sydney’s botanical gardens and busby’s estate “Kirkton” in the Hunter Valley
  • In 1857, Adam Roth, arrived in Sydney and was given a grant of 37 hectares in Mudgee, NSW; established Craigmor Winery a year later
  • 1918 – Ambrose Larghy who worked at Kirkton Vineyard traveled to Mudgee, NSW to purchase grapes and in return gave Chardonnay cuttings to Bill Roth (son of Adam Roth) at Craigmoor Vineyards
    • These cuttings came from the original collection at Kirkton and were said to be the only source of Chardonnay at the time
  • 50 years later, a nameless grape variety was identified by a professor from Montpellier France as Chardonnay and was said to be one of the best disease-free clones he had seen making Mudgee the first wine growing area in Australia to grow CHardonnay
  • Chardonnay is now Australia’s most popular white wine
  • Although it has a long history in Australia, it didn’t become popular until the 1970s and was brought into acclaim in the 80s/90s
  • Murray Tyrell helped changed the course of Chardonnay here when he jumped a barb-wire fence to liberate Chardonnay cutties from Penfolds experimental HVD vineyard
    • He later bought this vineyard in 1982
    • His first vintage was called Pinot Chardonnay and was in 1971
    • Today its called Tyrell’s Vat 47 and is the oldest continuing line of the variety produced in Australia 
  • He also created Australia’s first true wine brand, Long Flat
  • Fell victim to ABC (anything but chardonnay) backlash
    • Since it was so popular, Chardonnay led to overproduction which meant the quality fell and it was heavily oaked, over ripe, overly butter, and incredibly rich
  • A new trend in Australia is the rise of alcohol free chardonnay
  • Today a lot of the original regions that it was grown in like Hunter Valley, Mudgee, Riverland, Riverina are too warm
  • Moving it to cooler areas like the Yarra Valley, Tasmania, Victoria, Adelaide Hills and Margaret River are where we see some of the best Chardonnays

SOUTH AFRICA

  • Due to apartheid restrictions, much of the Chardonnay that is now enjoyed in South Africa cones from vines that were smuggled into the country in the 1970s
  • Has really only been growing Chardonnay since the 1980s with the oldest Chardonnay vineyard dating to 1981
  • Preventing the incorporation of new and different grape varieties was an obstacle set by the south african wine industry under the mega-producer KWV which also served as a regulator in the 1970s and 80s
    • They called the shots and wine farmers had to follow
    • Dominated by Chenin blanc and cape riesling (crouchon blanc)
    • 1) Plant material had to be approved, imported under strict conditions and planted in a regulated environment
    • 2) Only after 3-5 years could the grapes from this plant be harvested and wine made
    • 3) Wine had to be approved by KWV
    • 4) Then plant could be propoagted from commercial use, the vines planted, and after another 3-5 years, made
    • Could take 15-20 years under that system
  • Chardonnay is now a massive part of the winemaking scene and its crazy to think it recently wasn’t (makes up about 7.5 percent)

WORLD CHARDONNAY DAY MAY 21-25