It’s not something that you’re going to think about when you’re drinking your first bottle of wine, but after a while you realize that every Chardonnay grape isn’t the same. In fact, for some grapes, there’s a lot of difference between types of Chardonnay grapes.
Before moving on, we need to make a quick note, that there is more genetic diversity in grapes of the same type (IE, in Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay) than there is in all of human beings, put together.
Part of what happens here is that grapes do reproduce, much like we do, but unlike people in the 21st century, there isn’t a lot of mixing. What then transpires, is that grapes in one vineyard can differ dramatically from the grapes in another vineyard after only a handful of years.
Those differences within a specific type of grape is called a Clone. In fact, over the past few years, specific grape clones have become major selling points. Part of the reason for this, is that over time, these grapes have become well suited to specific types of sites. Part of the appeal can be growing well in conditions like cold weather, or warmer weather. Part of it can depend on the amount of water needed, or even the amount of grapes produced per vine.
Currently, you’ll see the most conversation in regard to Chardonnay grape clones. There’s quite a few French examples, but now we’re seeing a Wente clone from Livermore competing for warmer climate placements.
Honestly, I think the discussion of grape clones can be interesting on a few levels. First, from a winemaking perspective, choosing the correct clone can really help the quality of what you’re producing in a given site. BUT, from a consumer aspect there’s one thing that I would really enjoy. Can we get a vineyard to take even a row or two, same vineyard and plant different clones near enough each other to have common weather, soil etc. Wouldn’t it be fun to actually taste the difference between clones, when keeping other factors constant?
So what’s a grape clone? It’s a type of a grape, grown in a specific place.