Chardonnay — Viticultural Practices (2)
Chardonnay is a versatile grape that can grow well in various types of soil, but it thrives best on the limestone, calcareous and clay soils that are usually found in its traditional growing regions. For example, the Grand Crus de Chablis vineyards are planted on slopes with Kimeridgian loam, clay and chalk.
Areas outside the main region, known as Petit Chablis, are cultivated in a type of soil called Portlandia clay that results in less refined wines. In the Champagne region, there are chalk beds, and in the Côte d’Or, some parts of the area are formed by a mixture of clay and limestone.
The wine produced in Burgundy can be affected by the amount of clay in the soil where the chardonnay grapes grow. This indicates that the clay content may influence the final wine.
Meursault’s first cru vineyard, Meursault-Charmes, has a soil with almost 2 meters of limestone in its surface layer. The wines produced in this region are powerful, mineralized and fine, and require additional aging in the bottle to reach their full potential. Soil type can compensate for less-than-ideal weather conditions in other regions.
Certain areas of South Africa with rocky and clay soils and abundant limestones are known for producing wines that are less flexible and more similar to those from Burgundy, although their climate differs greatly from that of France. On the other hand, chardonnay wines grown in vineyards with soils richer in sandstone tend to be fuller and more robust.
When it comes to Pinot Blanc, there’s often confusion.
Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay have often been confused because of their similar ampelographic characteristics and continue to share several synonyms. Although their grapes, leaves, and clusters may look identical, there are some underlying distinctions.
If you examine the vine closely, you will see small variations in the thickness and size of the hairs on the branches. In addition, the veins of the chardonnay leaf are visible near the area where it attaches to the stem, as they create a border on the crest.
One of the Vitis Vinifera strains with this characteristic is Cabernet Sauvignon. In northern Italy, pinot blanc and chardonnay vines tend to grow together in vineyards, which causes frequent confusion between the two when they are mixed to make wine.
The Italian government did not commission researchers to differentiate between the two types of vines until 1978. In France, the two strains were confused until the middle of the 19th century. At that time, ampelographers inspected the Chablis and Burgundy vineyards to distinguish authentic chardonnay from Pinot Blanc.