Chardonnay grape is mother to today’s most popular wines

april 08 2011


A peasant’s grape that was all-but-outlawed in the Middle Ages has lived on as the mother of many of today’s most popular and prized wines, including champagne, a study has revealed.


Cambridge University scientists have shown that the Gouais blanc, a lowly grape variety that was despised by the rich, provided more than half the genes in nine varieties of grape widely grown today.


These include Chardonnay, a staple of the modern wine bar and the drink of choice of Bridget Jones.


The Chardonnay grape is also used to make Chablis and is an important component of many sparkling wines including champagne.


But 500 years ago, it was a very different story.


Gouais blanc was primarily grown by the poor of north-eastern France and looked down on by the rich, who made several attempts to ban it between  late 16th and the 18th centuries,


These included a 1732 law which tried to eliminate the grape the grape, describing it as ‘rustic’ and ‘inferior’ but also ‘high-yielding’.


Co-author of the study John Haeger of Stanford University in the US said: ‘Gouais was held in low esteem in the late medieval and early modern periods.


‘Typically, varieties of this sort were grown on flat land by peasants. Good vineyards, on the other hand, growing better and lower yielding varieties were owned and farmed under the supervision of the church or nobility.’


‘Many of the “bans” were designed either to favour aristocrats and monastic orders over peasants, or force more arable land into the production of cereals and legumes to eliminate food shortages.’


Although their attempts to ban the grape failed, it largely disappeared at the end of the 19th century and now survives only in a few vineyards and reference collections around the world.


But the Gouais blanc’s legacy lives on.


The British and US  researchers knew that crosses between it and Pinot noir, which was favoured by the rich, had produced many of today’s type of grape.


What they didn’t know was which variety was the ‘mother’ and which the ‘father’.


This is important because, in the plant world, as in the human one, the female contributes more DNA to offspring than the male.


Using genetic fingerprinting techniques more usually associated with forensic science, they traced the origins of 12 widely-grown varieties.


Gouais blanc was found to be the maternal parent of nine, including Chardonnay, Gamay noir, which is found in Beaujolais, and Aligote, a key component of the Kir Royal cocktail.


In contrast, Pinot noir, the ‘rich man’s grape’ was the ‘mother’ of three, the Royal Society journal Biology Letters reports.


Professor Christopher Howe, of the University of Cambridge, said: ‘It is ironic that the despised grape Gouais blanc was not just a parent for several of the world’s best-known and most important varieties, such as Chardonnay and Gamay noir, it was the maternal parent, providing additional DNA and potentially determining important characteristics of the offspring.


‘This is a striking conclusion, as Gouais is generally considered a highly inferior variety, and its cultivation was banned for many years in parts of Europe.’


However, the lowly origins of Chardonnay may vindicate followers ‘ABC’ rule of wine buying – or ‘Anything But Chardonnay’.


They turned their backs on the wine after it featured prominently in the Bridget Jones books and films – and cropped up as the name for a character in the ITV series Footballers’ Wives.





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Getting to this fine dining restaurant of Angeles City Clark Freeport Zone Pampanga Philippines

How to get to this fine-dining restaurant in Clark Philippines?  Once you get to Clark Freeport, go straight until you hit Mimosa.  After you enter Mimosa, stay on the left on Mimosa Drive, go past the Holiday Inn and Yats Restaurant (green top, independent 1-storey structure) is on your left.  Just past the Yats Restaurant is the London Pub.



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