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The Mysterious Origins of Morillon, Styria’s Signature Grape

South Styria Vineyards Landscape, Near Gamlitz, Austria, Europe. Grape Hills View From Wine Road / Getty Images

There is no other place in the world where Chardonnay has infiltrated as well as it has in Styria, in the south of Austria. This Burgundian native grape is considered an international variety today, and it grows wherever winemaking exists. But in Styria, local winegrowers would uniformly agree that Chardonnay, known here as Morillon, is their traditional grape.

“For us [Morillon] is not just a synonym—it stands for the taste of Steiermark [Styria],” says Katharina Tinnacher, winemaker and proprietor of Weingut LacknerTinnacher, explaining how Chardonnay here is not quite Chardonnay.

Exactly when the grape got to Austria is not clear. It most likely arrived with other Burgundian varieties brought by the Cistercian monks, but it was confused with Pinot Blanc for a long time, making the lineage difficult to trace.

However, the theories of how Morillon became a Styrian signature variety are unrelated to the Cistercians and how it got to the rest of Austria. Its local name indicates that it arrived in Styria separately, as the name Morillon is not used in any other Austrian region.

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