Chasing Chasselas


All of the grape varieties in France are chasing Chasselas—or ahead of Chasselas, or running side-by-side with Chasselas.

And you thought Chasselas was just an insignificant little grape that only Switzerland cares about. Think again.

Late last night while I was studying the Bordeaux Wine Guide published by the CIVB (Counseil Interprofessional du Vin de Bordeaux) I saw it right there on page 43: “In France the main families of grapes are defined (by typical time of ripening) according to the usual maturity date of Chasselas (the reference variety).”

I had to read it twice and call four of my wine friends to see if they had ever heard of Chasselas being France’s reference variety. No one had. As such, I did a bit of research.

The quick version is: it’s true.

Back in the 1800s, a French botanist named Victor Pulliat (1827-1896) created a classification of grape varieties—The Pulliat Classification—based on their typical ripening date in relation to the Chasselas Doré grape variety

The Pulliat Classification breaks down as follows:

  • Early-ripening grape varieties:  Ripen from eight to ten days ahead of Chasselas Doré
  • First-period grape varieties: Ripen at about the same time as Chasselas Doré
  • Second-period grape varieties: Ripen from 12 to 15 days after Chasselas Doré
  • Third-period grape varieties: Ripen from 16 to 30 days after Chasselas Doré
  • Late-ripening grapes: Typically ripen more than 31 days after Chasselas Doré

Chasselas grapes on day zero (?)

Victor Pulliat was active in Beaujolais during the early days of the Phylloxera crisis, and traveled extensively throughout Europe testing vines, rootstocks, and grafting techniques. He was an early adopter of using American rootstock for grafting and is recognized as helping to “save the vines” of Beaujolais. These days, his memory is honored with the awarding of the Victor Pullliat Prize, awarded to the “best” example of each of the 10 Beaujolais crus at the annual Fête des Crus.

The Pulliat Classification seems like an interesting bit of history in the world of wine, but as I just learned, it is still used. While it seems hyper-specific, it is not the only classification to reach beyond its original intended use. Just look at the fame of the Winkler Scale (created by Maynard Amerine and A. J. Winkler of UC Davis), used to measure ripening in terms of degree-days or heat summation. While originally designed in 1944 to be used in California, it has since been used in many wine growing regions all over the world.

References/for further information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

2 Responses to Chasing Chasselas

  1. That’s a very interesting and informative article, thanks very much!

  2. jheuristic says:

    Thanks. Lived in a Chasselas vineyard in Geneva/Genève. Knew it was nobler than the wine media claims. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: