It’s International Chardonnay Day 2021! To celebrate the day, we share with you the origins, the plentiful names chardonnay is also known by, where it’s found within France and around the world and as always share some recommendations from French wine importers.
There have been a number of theories about the origins of chardonnay, which have since been disproven thanks to DNA testing of chardonnay grapes.
University of California DNA research found that Chardonnay was likely to be a cross between Pinot noir and Gouais blanc grapes. Gouais blanc is thought to have been introduced to France by Romans who brought it from Croatia and because it was grown in close proximity to the pinot noir that was already been grown, the two varietals were able to interbreed thus producing chardonnay.
Similarity to pinot blanc
Ampelographical similarities meant that Pinot blanc and Chardonnay were often mistaken for each other and still share many of the same synonyms. However, while the grape vines, leaves, and clusters look identical at first glance, some subtle differences can be seen.
The most visible difference is that when chardonnay grapes are ripening, they become a more golden green colour compared to Pinot blanc grapes.
Chardonnay in France – the regions and the wines
Chardonnay is France’s second most grown grape, just behind ugni blanc.
Chardonay is grown in many regions across the country. However, Burgundy and Chablis were the first regions in which chardonnay was grown.
Chardonnay is found in the following regions within Burgundy:
- the Côte d’Or,
- Côte Chalonnaise; and
8 Grand Cru vineyards in Burgundy grow chardonnay:
- Corton-Charlemagne, and
- Le Musigny.
Chardonnay was first grown in Chablis in the 12th century! Chardonnay is the only permitted AOC grape variety in the region. If you’re drinking a Chablis, you’re most likely (most definitely in the EU) drinking a chardonnay from Chablis.
The most expensive chardonnays from Chablis are from the Grand Cru vineyards:
- Les Clos,
- Valmur, and
Chardonnay is one of 3 major grapes grown in the Champagne region. In Côte des Blancs in the Champagne region, chardonnay is the main planting.
Chardonnay is the only grape that goes into the blanc de blanc style of champagne.
Elsewhere in France
Languedoc is the next largest grower of chardonnay in France. Up to 30% chardonnay from Limoux can be blended with Mauzac to produce the Blanquette de Limoux.
Chardonnay plantings are also found in:
- the Jura (to create vin de paille dessert wines),
- the Loire Valley
- up to 20% chardonnay is permitted in the Chenin-blanc Anjou wines,
- Saumur uses chardonnay in its sparkling wines
- and Savoie.
French chardonnays to drink for International Chardonnay Day 2021
Three French wine importers share their recommendations with us for International Chardonnay Day 2021.
Airoldi Fine Wines
Daniel Airoldi speaks French chardonnay for International Chardonnay Day.
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What is the difference between Australian and French chardonnays?
Quite simply, the style, but Australian chardonnays have evolved a lot over the last 20 years! They have mostly become a lot less wooded, there are great chardonnays in Australia as well as in France.
Which chardonnay do you recommend?
Benjamin Laroche always favourises very fresh the very fresh and taut Chablisien style of minerality and acidity. Despite global warming, this 2019 is racy and stands out as a great Chablis wine.
What would you pair it with?
With oysters, gougères or escargot with garlic butter!
Margot from Le Plonque gives us her chardonnay recommendations for International Chardonnay Day 2021.
We love a good bottle of buttery oaky chardonnay, especially in the company of a great dish. It is a white with character, body and flavours. Chardonnay is famous for doing wonders with grilled seafood (scallops or salmon), but is also fantastic with light meats (chicken, veal, turkey) and vegetarian dishes (polenta, creamy mushrooms).
Which bottle to pick?
Try our Cotes de Nuit villages, a gem from Burgundy: Domaine Frédéric Magnien Coeur de Pierre 2015.
This wine is a high-quality Chardonnay, perfect for a present or to bring to a fancy dinner, it’s got aromas of fresh fruit and vanilla with hints of butter (almost smells like fresh pastries).
The French Wine Centre
Jono Hersey from The French Wine Centre chats chardonnay for International Chardonnay Day 2021.
Our strength is Chardonnay at The French Wine Centre. It is quite simply the greatest grape variety in the world. Chablis and White Burgundy are the most pleasurable wines. While my friends and I used to catch up for a ‘Barby’ and beers, I have got them all addicted and we genuinely cannot wait to all catch up and drink Chablis and white Burgundy in quantity!
There is an intellectual side to drinking white Burgundy, following the terroirs and evolution of the wines they produce. Chablis is the most distinct white wine in the world that truly cannot be replicated. This is due to their Kimmeridgian Clay which is made up of limestone and fossilised little oysters. It producers remarkably mineral white wines.
Which chardonnay do you recommend?
White Burgundy and Chablis. We have leading producers in these regions. Take a look at the chardonnays stocked by The French Wine Centre here
Its the reason I live. It is quite simply the greatest satisfaction one can attain by a price.
What would you pair with chardonnay?
A Friday afternoon and friends. Oh and closely followed by another bottle please!
Which style chardonnay do you prefer? Have you ever tried a Chablis?
You can also find further French chardonnay recommendations in our International Chardonnay Day article from last year
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