Country of origin: France
Berry color: Yellow
Common synonyms: Pinot Chardonnay
Comments: The TTB-approved prime name is Chardonnay
Chardonnay is one of the leading white grape varieties in the world for production of high-quality white wines. The variety probably originated from the Burgundy region of France. The name “Chardonnay” has been linked to a village in the Mâcon region and is derived from Cardonnacum, which means “a place of chardons or thistles.”
In California there are references to Chardonnay being grown in the late 1800s. Plantings remained limited due to Chardonnay’s low fruit yields compared to the higher-yielding varieties grown at that time. During Prohibition most Chardonnay vineyards were uprooted in favor of varieties that could withstand shipment to the East Coast. After Prohibition two surviving Chardonnay vineyards were the Wente Vineyard in Livermore and Paul Masson’s La Cresta Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. These vineyards are believed to represent different introductions of Chardonnay into California. Budwood collected from the Wente Vineyard has been a major source for the expansion of Chardonnay acreage in the state. In 1960 it was estimated that only 150 acres of Chardonnay existed in California. By 2000 there were 103,491 acres reported, making it the state’s most widely planted wine grape variety.
Chardonnay is one of the first varieties to begin growth in the spring, which makes vines more susceptible to frost injury. Crop recovery from regrowth is usually small. In years when cool bloom temperatures occur a high percentage of seedless, shot berries can occur. Early maturity makes the fruit attractive to birds, and significant fruit loss can occur.
Foundation Plant Services at UC Davis is the source of Foundation grapevine material for the nursery industry, and the staff can provide information about possible sources for obtaining this stock.
The National Grape Registry (NGR) contains information about varieties of wine, juice, and table grapes, raisins, and grape rootstocks available in the United States. Growers, nurseries, winemakers and researchers can find background information and source contacts for those grape varieties in this single convenient location.
Asher, G. 1990. Wine Journal: Chardonnay, Buds, Twigs, and Clones. Gourmet (May):62-XX.
Fidelibus, M, Christensen, L, Katayama, D, and Verdenal, P. 2006. Yield Components and Fruit Composition of Six Chardonnay Grapevine Clones in the Central San Joaquin Valley, California. Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 57(4):503-506. Abstract
Sweet, N. 2008. Clonal Development of Chardonnay (PDF). Reprint from Practical Winery and Vineyard, Mar/April 2008. 7 pp.
Sweet, N. 2007. Chardonnay History and Selections at FPS (PDF). Foundation Plant Services Grape Program Newsletter, November 2007:20-36.
Wolpert, J., Kasimatis, A., and Weber, E. 1994. Field Performance of Six Chardonnay Clones in the Napa Valley. Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 45(4):393-400. Abstract