Chardonnay – France – Champagne

Chardonnay - France - Champagne

Chardonnay is one of the three main grape varieties cultivated in the Champagne region of France. It is mainly cultivated in the Aube and Marne regions, together with Chablis, and has been responsible for more than 50% of chardonnay plantations in France throughout the 20th century. The Côte des Blancs area is known for its calcareous soil, conducive to the growth of chardonnay.

Chardonnay is cultivated in the three main cities surrounding the Côte, as it has particular qualities preferred by Champagne producers depending on the styles of each house.

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In the Champagne region, the Côte des Blancs stands out for being the only area where chardonnay grapes are predominantly cultivated. The town of Avize produces grapes that result in lighter wines, while Cramant produces more aromatic wines, and Mesnil grapes produce wines with a higher level of acidity.

In the primary districts of Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims and Vallée de la Marne, pinot noir is planted more than chardonnay. Meanwhile, in the Aisne region, Pinot Meunier is the dominant grape variety. Interestingly, despite being less planted, Blanc de Blancs champagne (made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes) is produced more frequently than Blanc de Noirs.

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The reason is that Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes create dense, heavy wines without the fineness and balance that Chardonnay brings to the mix. Bubble-free Chardonnay wine is made with the AOC Coteaux Champenois label. The wine has a higher acidity level than Chablis and is usually made as dry wine.

The Champagne region has a similar amount of light to that of Chablis, but Chardonnay grapes grown in Champagne do not fully mature because the average temperature is just above the minimum maturation requirement, which is about 11°C.

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Because of the incomplete development of fruity aromas in chardonnay grapes, the fixed variety of champagne may have a minimal chardonnay flavor. This eliminates the need to maintain low yields in the region. For a long time on lees, champagne can acquire creamy and nutty flavors along with some floral notes.

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