So prominent is this grapevine on the international landscape, that its origin is often simply overlooked. Here at THENATIVEGRAPES.com we feel for such international stars.
Yes, when it comes to Chardonnay, one of the worlds most versatile native grapes, it’s only right and proper that its northern French heritage is recognised.
OK, so it grows easily, pretty much everywhere on the planet between 30°-50° North & South of the equator. But CHARDONNAY’s home is Burgundy, France.
A natural PINOT x GOUAIS BLANC cross as confirmed to us by the entirely awesome ‘Wine Grapes’ by Robinson, Harding & Vouillamoz. And we are absolutely nobody to challenge the spell-binding research data that they serve up. More than a BOOK, it’s a whopping 1242 page grape compass, couch companion and summer evening aperitivo hammock-humdinger. We’ll keep saying it, for all adventurous types, seeking the heritage of your favourite nectar, if you don’t have this book already, go, go, go….GO….get it. NOW!
Hot or cold climate, Chardonnay grows well. It’s relatively thin skinned and yes it’s prone to issues in the vineyard (spring frost damage among them). But which variety hasn’t got issues? What’s important for most is that it ripens easily and early. This alone is principally why it is central to the creation of a vast GLOBAL range of mono-varietal, blended, dry, sparkling and even sweet wines.
Whenever the discussion turns to focus on Quality Chardonnay, light is shone on where it’s grown and the treatment the grapes receive in the winery. In the right hands and the perfect environment, it can deliver wines of immense expression that ultimately may tell you where the wine comes from.
Speaking of its Burgundian homeland, heading south from Chablis to Dijon’s Cote de Beaune and on to the heart of the Maconnais, you’ll find more than 250km’s of opportunities to discover the majesty of this vine. Interestingly the town of Chardonnay, located north of Macon (near Uchizy), is believed to be where the vine got its name. That’ll do for us, for now . In our first ‘AT HOME with CHARDONNAY’, we venture into the realm of Chablis to check out 5 from one of their best Patrick Piuze.
He tells us how it is here that each plot, each Cru, produces crops of such diversity that he chooses to make varietals for each individual parcel he works with. Interestingly Piuze doesn’t own his own vineyard. Rather he buys from trusted partners growing in the best Cru sites. Such is his relationship with the growers that Patrick can also directly manage activity in the vineyard during the growing season. And he can hand-harvest his tended crop too. An effective solution, it allows him to push local & traditional boundaries a little. His singular goal is to produce wines that capture the personality of Chablis, Chardonnay and the unique local geological ingredients.
The predominant soil composition here is known as Kimmeridgean (and/or Portlandian soil). Check out the towns Kimmeridge & Portland, Dorset, England, after which they’re named.
Prized for its composition of limestone, calcareous clay and marine fossilised shells, all Chablis’ Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards are planted primarily on Kimmeridgean soil. For winemakers like Patrick, the stoney, smokey, flint-like minerality that it imparts is what they seek. Science is still trying to figure out why it makes such a difference but it does.
This sense of place is what Top Cru Chablis winemakers want to stamp on their Chablis. And Chardonnay’s versatility helps them do just that. Curiously machine harvesting is widespread in the greater Chablis region, but Patrick prefers that every bunch of his grapes is hand picked. This careful transfer from vineyard to the winery ensures he gets the best out of his fruit.
and everything that Chardonnay can offer in the range from youthfulness to aged complexity.
Here’s a little of what we found in Patrick’s:
Medium intensity straw coloured, clean, youthful, light apple and pear notes play with a currently dominant minerality and acidity. Classic young Chablis.
Rich straw yellow to the eye, on the nose it’s increasing in intensity and complexity. Smokey, flinty, with an appealing light and we mean light, complimentary, non-invasive yeasty, butter, crusted pastry and pineapple. This Chablis is rounding beautifully. On the palate it’s all about the structure and balance, fresh acidity and again pronounced minerality. Harmony and persistence. Nice.
Colour intensity is deeping further. Elegant, sensitive, with the lightest of creamy, buttery noses. Mature notes including cooked pear, light honey caramel. Elegant, elegant. On the palate it’s got real body and soul. And fresh with it too. Pretty damn nice. Coming close to awesome but let’s not get too carried away :)
Yet another step up in sophistication. What we would simply describe as excellence. Deeper than the previous three, its additional years of evolution mean its body is more enriched, grainy, honeyed, mature. Ever present stoney minerality. You’ve got a pretty good idea where this comes from. We are moving into a world apart here.
This was Patrick’s first ever vintage. Luminous yellow gold, it’s an intense and complex wine that capably demonstrates the ageing potential of a Premier Cru Chablis. Once again appealing shortcrust pastry on the nose, this time with a little orange marmalade on the side. Yeah. All the while its acidity is still gripping the palate. A beauty. Super.
You see, we need AIR just as much we need good Chablis :)
And you know where they’ve got plenty of both…yeah, BURGUNDY.
AT HOME with CHARDONNAY….to be continued.
P.S. Hopefully with some new vintage AIR !!