This month we are going to take a deep dive into the Chardonnay grape, and show why it is one of the most popular varieties in the world. As I was doing research for this write-up, I consulted Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and Jose Vouillamoz to get the most up-to-date understanding of the origins of the ubiquitous Chardonnay grape. The earliest records show this variety already being farmed in the central/eastern part of France between Dijon and Lyon in the 16th century. It was so pervasive that it was classified under many locally used names and was often confused with several other varieties. Chardonnay shares a very common mother with many French varieties, Gouais Blanc, and Pinot Noir as the father. Like the good Catholics of the time, these two were prodigious in their offspring, also creating Aligote, Gamay Noir and Melon just to name a few. For centuries, this caused a great deal of confusion among growers across Europe, and it was not until DNA evidence cleared up the picture in the late 20th century that many vineyards were properly identified. Even as late as the 1980s, I still remember wineries in California labeling wines as Pinot Chardonnay because they were not sure there was a difference between them.
Thankfully, today we have great clarity about what is Chardonnay and what is not. For this quarter, I have selected two great examples from Burgundy and Napa which will provide you with a great comparison of their styles. Once you have accomplished this and feel enlightened, then toast to your newfound knowledge with a stunning Blanc de Blancs from Champagne.Download Full Club Write-up