Hardy, Crisp and Rich: Meet Chardonnay’s Hybrid Grape

A glass of Chardonel
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Now grown along the East Coast, across the Midwest and down to Arkansas, this hybrid grape variety is snapping up more and more of the America’s acreage. Here’s what you need to know.

Chardonel has popular parents

Developed in New York during the 1950s, Chardonel was cultivated to produce a white wine grape that could achieve a body and flavor range similar to Chardonnay but would be able to sustain long, harsh winters.

Indeed, Chardonnay, as Chardonel’s name alludes, dominates its character. Chardonel typically makes a medium- to full-bodied wine that can vary in taste from crisp and citrusy to rich and savory. Also like its preeminent parent, its vines grow vigorously, and its fruit condones a diversity of vinification techniques.

But as intended, Chardonel does at least one thing that its widely planted parent cannot: It thrives in areas with rapid and significant weather shifts.

This hardiness comes from its other forebearer, cold-resistant Seyval Blanc. A hybrid itself, Seyval also redoubles Chardonel’s crisp, tart and dry qualities, and bolsters its proclivity for acid retention.

Chardonel adapts well to multiple climates

Despite its cool-climate beginnings, Chardonel’s release for commercial winemaking use in 1990 was prompted by promising plantings in Arkansas and Michigan. Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern winemakers saw an opportunity, and the grape quickly confirmed its success in places that endure heat spikes and frigid winter winds without steady snow cover.

“It’s been in the ground for a short time, but we’ve been able to get a good handle on it,” says Jim Anderson, executive director of the Missouri Wine and Grape Board. “Chardonel reliably produces a quality white wine that is very food friendly.”

As climate change increasingly demands adaptability, that reliability is precisely what gives Chardonel promise and appeal for the future.

A Beginner's Guide to Hybrid Grapes

Other hybrids with growing national allure 

Maréchal Foch

A cross of Goldriesling and an unknown American Vitis riparia-Vitis rupestris vine, this red grape is grown across New York, Minnesota, Ohio and beyond. It yields wines that are deep in color, with earthy and dark fruit flavors.

Traminette

This white is grown in the Midwest and down the East Coast. A cross of GewĂĽrztraminer and hybrid Joannes Seyve 23.416, it maintains floral and spicy flavors and is often fermented off-dry to lend a delicate sweetness to the finish.

Vignoles

A curious cross of Subereux and Pinot Noir, this white grape is grown primarily in the East and Midwest. It has semisweet citrus and floral flavors.

Published on March 29, 2021
Topics: Wine and Ratings