Chasselas

Chasselas is as important perhaps for its ubiquity as it is for the quality of its wines. A white wine grape, Chasselas may well hail from the commune bearing its name in the Maçonnais, in southern Burgundy. However, it is on the terraced vineyards of the Swiss cantons of the Vaud, Geneva, Neuchâtel, Lake Biel and the Valais that it finds a semblance of quality as the easy-drinking crisp white wine, Fendant.

Chasselas is Switzerland's leading grape variety in volume terms, covering around 5,600 hectares, or 30 per cent of all Swiss vineyards. Typically, Chasselas renders light-weighted wines with a slight spritz and citrus and floral hints. It is seldom oaked or worked beyond it's modest capacity for highly eminently drinkable wines.

Chasselas bears its buds precociously, exposing the nascent growth to the risk of spring frost. For these reasons, in Switzerland and in the neighbouring French department of the Savoie, vines are largely trained low to the ground as bush vines, allowing the fruit to absorb the warmth from the ground. A supporting stake may be used against wind and erosion, while the Rhône river below serves as a medium to reflect and refract sunlight from its waters. This is absorbed by the hillside vines, largely on thin soils, helping to ripen the grapes.

Chasselas is also found across the French border in Savoie and Pouilly-sur-Loire, the diminutive neighbor of Pouilly-Fumé which is known for a very different expression of white wine made from Sauvgnon Blanc. In Alsace, Chasselas is frequently blended across grape varieties to make the flagon quaffer, Edelzwicker. It is also found throughout eastern Europe, Israel, Lebanon, Chile and New Zealand.

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