Saturday, March 1, 2008

Training Vines in Champagne: Chardonnay

Nicolas Chiquet cites three major functions of a pruning system: it controls yields; it separates the bunches to increase ripeness and provide aeration; and it adapts the vine to the various sorts of mechanized labor that occur between the rows. In Champagne, chardonnay is largely trained in a system called la taille en Chablis. Whether this actually has anything to do with the region of Chablis or not, I don’t really know, but that’s what it’s called. Like the cordon du Royat, the Chablis involves short canes on a long charpente, or branch, although here there are multiple branches instead of one long, horizontal one.

Here you can see a young chardonnay vine in the vineyard of La Range aux Pierres in Aÿ, a parcel on the upper slope that is often included in Gaston Chiquet’s Blanc de Blancs d’Aÿ. It’s just been pruned so it’s sort of splayed out haphazardly right now, but the individual branches will eventually be tied down to the wires. As the branches must be at least 30 centimeters apart from each other, the allowed number of branches depends on the spacing of the vines. The maximum spacing is 1.5 meters between vines, which allows for five branches; in this vineyard Chiquet has planted vines one meter apart, and so this vine has only three branches. Each branch supports one cane at its end, which is allowed five buds.

This is a photo of an older vine in the same vineyard, which for whatever reason has only two charpentes instead of three:

Chiquet uses the Chablis system for all of his meunier as well as chardonnay, but there is another system commonly used for meunier called Vallée de la Marne. I’ll try to take a photo of that to post tomorrow.


jeffreyhellman said...

Peter, I am starting a small Champagne importing company and my partners and I will be in Champagne in early April. I would love some help identifying good small producers that are not currently imported to the US. I would also love to meet you and drink some Champagne. My e-mail is

spume said...

Hey Peter,

Great post (actually, all three of these are great). But I love the pictures of these chardonnay vines, which look like terrifying and spindly hands coming out of the ground in a Tim Burton film. Nicely done.

- wolfgang

Peter Liem said...

Thanks Wolfgang,

Yeah, Edward Chablishands! Nobody I ask knows why it's called Chablis. I thought I remembered seeing Guyot when I was in Chablis, but maybe I'm wrong. said...

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