• Dona Stewart

Bordeaux - New Varieties for a Changing Climate

Will there be something new in your Bordeaux? The recently announced decision by France's Institut National de l'Origine et de la Qualite (INAO) — to permit the cultivation of new grape varieties in Bordeaux marks a major change for the region. Each was selected after much testing for their ability to water (hydric) stress associated with temperature increases and shorter growing cycles.

The four new reds:

ArinarnoaDeveloped by the French National Research Agency (INRA) in 1956 it was originally thought to be a cross between a Merlot and Petite Verdot. Recent genetic testing determined it is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat. It can produce wines with considerable structure and tannins.

Castets – Little is known of this varietal, which at one time likely grew in the Gironde. With only a few acres under production it was thought to be nearly extinct.

Marselan - Created by INRA in 1961 this is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. It can be found in the Languedoc, and is a permitted blending component for Côtes du Rhône.

Touriga Nacional – Characterized by black fruits and strong tannins this grape has long been grown in Portugal to produce Port and, increasingly, high quality dry red wines.

The whites:

Alvarinho – This highly aromatic and acidic white varietal has its origins in the Iberian Peninsula. It is grown extensively in both Spain, where is it known as Albariño and Portugal’s Vinho Verde region (Alvarinho).

Liliorila. Also developed by INRA in 1956, this varietal is a cross between Chardonnay and Baroque. Originating in southwest France, Baroque is noted for its hazelnut and pear flavors.

Petit Manseng, the third proposed white grape, was not approved. The variety’s strong association with the Pyrenees region and the need to maintain the uniqueness of France’s wine regions were factors in the decision.

What does this mean for Bordeaux wines?

The first plantings are just now taking place so it will be some years, before any make their way into bottles.

But don’t expect to see any single varietal wines or blends dominated by these newcomers. Under INAO regulations the new varieties are limited to 5% of the planted vineyard area and cannot account for more than 10% of the final blend. Due to labelling regulations these new varieties will not appear on Bordeaux labels.

For additional information on France’s grape varieties visit the Pl@ntGrape project run by the Agropolis Fondation.

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