Chardonnay — Viticultural Practices
Chardonnay is praised for its ability to adapt to different environments and for its relative ease of cultivation. The variety is malleable, and the wines produced vary depending on the environment and the winemaking method.
The wine is very strong and has many leaves that cover it, which can limit the amount of energy and nutrients that the bunch receives.
To solve the problem, agronomists use pruning and canopy management techniques. When chardonnay vines are grown very close to each other, they are forced to compete for resources, leading them to concentrate their energy on the production of grape clusters. Although these vines can produce high yields under certain circumstances, the quality of the wine they produce is adversely affected if yields exceed 4.5 tons per acre (80 hl/ha).
Producers of high-quality chardonnay deliberately limit the amount of grape harvested to less than 50% of the normal yield. This is because they give priority to the fineness of the wine over the concentration of flavors.
During the winemaking process, the harvest is a critical phase in which grapes lose their acidity due to maturation. The production of chardonnay, which is an early wine, usually takes place one week after that of Pinot Noir. One of the challenges of viticulture is the possibility of damage caused by spring frosts. To mitigate the risk of frost damage, in Burgundy, a method known as aggressive pruning is used just before budding.
When the vine suffers a shock, sprouting is delayed for a couple of weeks, allowing for a warmer climate to arrive. Problems such as millerandage and coulure, as well as powdery mildew on the delicate skin of grapes, can also be problematic. Chardonnay, being an early-maturing grape, can thrive in areas with a short growing season. In Burgundy, for example, grapes are harvested before the arrival of autumn rains, which could cause rot. It’s essential to consider all of these factors when growing chardonnay.
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