Chardonnay is the most popular and cultivated white grape variety in the world: six percent of all the vines on the globe are planted with Chardonnay. However, popular does not mean less prestigious: it is in fact the grape variety on which the production of the great white wines of Burgundy is based, as well as being one of the three varieties for manufacturing champagne, along with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Its incredible adaptability makes it cultivable practically everywhere, except for the more northern and cold areas, where, due to its early flowering, it would risk not reaching the end of its vegetative phase. Due to its not too marked personality, it lends itself perfectly to the declination the producer decides to give it: in oak, it takes on notes of hazelnut and butter, as in Chablis, while in its sparkling version as Champagne, and in Italy, in Franciacorta and in the Trentodoc territory, it gives freshness and acidity instead.
As with almost all varieties, it is difficult to define a single origin. For some scholars, it has Middle Eastern roots, for others, it comes from a spontaneous cross from a pre-domesticated vine and a vine from Illyria, a region of the current Balkans. In modern times, on the other hand, it starts spreading from Burgundy, being originally planted by the Cistercian monks of the Pontigny abbey, from where it has spread progressively throughout the world since the end of the nineteenth century. In fact, its name derives from Chardonnay, the homonymous village of the Mâconnais, right in Burgundy. Long confused with Pinot Blanc, genetic research has shown that it is a cross, which occurred spontaneously, perhaps in the Carolingian era, between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc, a grape of Slavic origin.