Grape varietals: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
Its origins are unclear: according to some scholars it has middle-eastern roots, others think it originated from the spontaneous crossbreed of a pre-domesticated vine with a vine coming from Illyria. In any case, it originated in Burgundy, from where it progressively spread throughout the world from the end of the XIX century. Long mistaken with Pinot Blanc, it is a crossbreed, as genetic research shows, that spontaneously occurred perhaps during the Carolingian Era, between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc, a highly vigorous varietal of Slavic origin often used to “blend” with other wines. Its name derives from Chardonnay, the name of the town of Mâconnais, in Burgundy.
It has round, medium-sized leaves; medium-sized clusters, pyramid-shaped, scarcely winged; medium-sized grapes with generally thick and soft skin, golden yellow in colour. Highly vigorous, regular and abundant productivity.
Early harvest (first ten days of September). It flourishes in warm-temperate climate, hilly land rich in clay and limestone, airy and cool environments. It is sensitive to spring frost. It has a great variety of aromatic components, resulting differently based on the climate and soil where it is grown. Its relatively high yield does not affect the quality of the wines. However, yields over 80 quintals/hectare result in a significant quality drop, while substantial yield reduction will result in highly remarkable wines.
In Italy the Chardonnay varietal is grown in practically all regions, and in particular in Sicily, where it found a direct antagonist – Catarratto; in Trentino Alto Adige (in the Franciacorta region, in a blend of grapes, to produce spumanti), in Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, as well as in Piedmont with Alta Langa DOCG. In France, where it is widespread thoughout the country, it is used in purity to produce Borgogna and in a blend of grapes to produce Champagne. It is also found in Australia, California, Chile and South Africa. It is the essential ingredient of the best spumanti in the world. It ages very well. From the Chardonnay varietal different wines can be obtained: still, sparkling or spumanti, high in alcohol content and rather high in acidity levels.
The wine presents a fairly light straw yellow colour, a typically delicate and fruity bouquet (tropical fruit, particularly pineapple), an elegant and balanced palate. When aged it displays scents of dried fruit. It is particularly suitable to ageing in barriques.
Amongst all red grape varietals in the world, Pinot Noir is considered one of the noblest (the only one that may be compared to it is probably Nebbiolo), and at the same time one of the most difficult to interpret; it’s a vairetal that presents both wine experts and ordinary consumers with possibly the most complex tasting.
Pinot Noir originates in the French region of Burgundy, where it is the base for the greatest wines in the area (and amongst the most famous in the world), such as Romanée-Conti, Gevrey-Chambertin and Richebourg.
It is also found in the Champagne region, mostly on the Reims Mountain, but lately it has also appeared outside of Europe, in Oregon and California. The first analytical description of Pinot noir wines is by Edmund Mach (founder of the Agrarian Institute San Michele all’Adige) in 1894. Today, small quantities of certain micro-zones (Mazon-Neumarkt/Mazzon-Egna, Buchholz/Pochi, Eppan Berg/Appiano Monte, Vinschgau/Venosta) are at the top of national tastings on a regular basis. During the 2008 harvest, the production of V.Q.P.R.D. Pinot Noir was as follows: 638 registered producers with 337 hecates altogether; 562 claims out of 309 hecatres with a production of 17,338 hectolitres of wine.
In Italy there are two diffrent types. The first is suitable to be vinified as red and produces a highly delicate red wine, that varies considerably from year to year, even under its most suitable conditions. Its complex vinification is a major challange for winemakers, who are on average able to obtain a good vintage out of five.
It presents a fair yield and is sometimes subject to coulure (blossom drop). It grows well on hilly land with cool and sandy soil, of medium or low fertility. The recommended vine training system is spur pruning. The results are so remarkable as to justify the winemakers’ efforts. It is widespread in Franciacorta, Oltrepò pavese, Trentino, Veneto, Friuli and Alto Adige (where it is called Blauburgunder); successful vineyards were also planted in some areas of Tuscany.
Red in colour, typically not too dark, Pinot Noir can be recognized thanks to its characteristic scent of small red berries (mostly currant, but also blackbarries and raspberries). It ages very well in barrique.
The second type (the one vinified as white, therefore with no contact with the skins) results in a “neutral” wine, which is the best base for the production of spumante, giving it body, complexity and logevity. In France, it is the base for the successful King of sparkling wines, Champagne, in Italy for the production of Alta Langa DOCG.