Category: Grape varieties


Chardonnay grapes


This grape variety originated, in all probability in Burgundy where it was mentioned in the late 17th century. There is a village in the Macon region that bears its name, but this does not necessarily imply that it was born just there. As for many varieties that have been around for a while and have travelled well, it has many synonyms, especially in eastern France. A list of them would be fastidious especially as few are still in use, but I will make an exception for Morillon which is the name given to Chardonnay by many producers in Austria.

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Grenache (we are talking about the « noir » or « tinta » variant to be thorough since there are also white and grey varieties in this family) is a cultivar originally from Spain where it is called, amongst other names, Garnacha. It also happens to be the world’s third most planted red grape variety after Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

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Sauvignon Blanc is, after Chardonnay, the best known white grape variety in the world. It probably originated in the Loire Valley where it has been identified since the 16th century and where it was initially known as « fier » or « fié ». It came to Bordeaux in the 18th century and from there travelled around the world. The Loire Valley and the Bordeaux region are thus the main producing areas for this variety in France, but it can be found in many other parts of Europe, particularly in regions with temperate climates such as Friuli in North-East Italy, Slovenia and Southern Austria (Styria), and quite a few others. In the New World, this variety has been particularly successful in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Chili, but it is New Zealand, and particularly the region of Marlborough, that has provided the modern benchmark for Sauvignon Blanc. Here the aromas can be very spectacular without the wine losing its natural freshness, and this profile has become a reference for the variety in many countries. Excessive heat is detrimental to the character of this grape and so the areas suitable for its production are determined by this constraint.

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