A 'winemakers grape', where all the tools of the cellar and masters' expertise can be applied, Chardonnay remains the most popular white wine grape varietal worldwide, in-spite of or perhaps because of its many disguises. It proves to be a vigorous, adaptable vine which is grown by most vine-cultivating countries. Ampelographers, those botanists who search out the origins of winegrapes, offer that from its historic beginnings around the Roman crossroad of Macon in southern Burgundy, it probably evolved as the cross of the widely planted, ancient peasant grape, Gouais Blanc and volatile Pinot Noir. And from there it grew, and grew to become what we are drinking.
Of course, being reliably adaptable and vigorous is not enough to make a variety noble. It must offer mind-blowing nuance, a spectrum of personality, and possibly the chance for winemakers to use all of their cellar tools to bring out what may have been hidden. With its popular adaption to the alkaline-clay soils that are prominent in the Cote-d-'Or, Cistercian monks systematically began to tame chardonnay, making written reference to it in the early 1300's. Prior to the introduction of contemporary stainless steel vessels, oak barrel fermentation was common, and additional wood treatment with aging or storage in cask allowed for even more texture and personality to dress-up chardonnay.
|New Zealand chardonnay vineyard, North Island|
|A secondary M-L ferment with oak chips|
|Chablis' famous Grand Cru vineyards|