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Friday, May 30, 2014

Chardonnay is Croatian!

                                       Jaw-dropping vineyards along the Croatian coast

Advances in the science of DNA have led to miracle cures in treating diseases, putting heinous criminals in jail, and are also responsible for authenticating the origins of many of the world’s wine grapes.  Chardonnay, long thought to be native to France, has now been found to have Croatian roots---or, at least, the maternal part of the grape is indigenous to Croatia.  The story goes something like this…

Genetic plant scientists at U.C. Davis have proven that the Gouais Blanc grape, native to Croatia, is the mother of Chardonnay.  It is believed Gouais Blanc was brought to France by the Romans.  While seldom grown any where in the world today, this white grape varietal spread quickly across most parts of France in medieval times.  Gouais Blanc crossed in the vineyards of Burgundy centuries ago with Pinot Noir to create Chardonnay.  

While Chardonnay is certainly the most famous offspring of the Gouais Blanc, DNA fingerprinting by researchers has further shown that the Croatian grape birthed many other wine grapes.  Gouais Blanc is an ancestor of Aligoté, Auxerrois, Gamay Noir, and Gamay Blanc.

Today, there is little Gouais Blanc grown in Croatia, however, ironically, Chardonnay is becoming more popular.  Especially in the north of Croatia, near the Italian border, Chardonnay plantings are increasing.   Chardonnay pairs well with the fish-based cuisine of Croatia’s 1,000 mile coastline.  

Another connection of Chardonnay to Croatia is via the illustrious winemaker, Mike Grgich.  Born in Croatia, Grgich (who immigrated to the Napa Valley) changed the course of California winemaking in the 1970's when working as the winemaker for Chateau Monhelena.  In the world famous tasting in Paris  (which became a book titled Judgement in Paris, as well as served as the basis for a film Bottle Shock), his Chardonnay beat out some of France's most revered Chardonnays in a blind tasting.  This moment catapulted California's wine industry into a different stratosphere.

Chardonnay is intrinsically linked to Croatia.  Come join us this fall in Croatia for our harvest tour to learn even more information about the varietal and its homeland---we have one spot remaining.


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