New Bordeaux Varieties

If this keeps up, the French will need to stop complaining about bureaucratic delays.  In just two years, the Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité (INAO), the regulatory body for French wines, has approved six new grape varieties that can be planted in Bordeaux and included in the blend of the wines.  Two years!  It took the same regulatory body over a decade to codify Premier Cru vineyards in Pouilly-Fuissé.  Mon Dieu, what is going on?

What’s going on is climate change.  These new varieties, four reds (Arinarnoa, Castets, Marselan and Touriga Nacional) and two whites (Alvarinho and Liliorila), can be planted in limited amounts in the less prestigious appellations, such as Bordeaux, Bordeaux Superior, and Entre Deux Mers, starting this year.  An estate can allocate no more than five percent of their vineyards to the new varieties and they cannot comprise more than 10 percent in of the final blend of the wine.  Importantly, as Jane Anson, a world authority on Bordeaux, points out, the new varieties are not allowed in the most prestigious appellations, such as Margaux, St. Julien, Pauillac, and St. Éstephe.

This announcement, first reported in Drinks Business, had me running to Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz, the leading reference on that subject since I had never heard of Arinarnoa, Castets, and Liliorila.

According to Wine Grapes, Arinarnoa, a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat, gets its name from the Basque dialect words arin, which means light and arno, which means wine.  How a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat could possibly produce a light wine is beyond me.

Castets is a “very minor western Pyreneen variety clinging on in France,” according to Wine Grapes.  It is native to the south of France and is a component of Château Simone’s “Palette” Rouge.

Wine Grapes tells us that France recorded fewer than 10 acres of Liliorila, a cross of Baroque (another grape I’ve never heard of) and Chardonnay, in 2008 and has the potential to produce powerful aromatic wines.

It’s not surprising that two traditional Portuguese varieties, Touriga Nacional and Alvarinho, would be included since they do well in hot climates.  Marselan, a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, a kind of Bordeaux-Rhône collaboration, already has a following in southwestern France and is becoming popular in China.

These grapes have variable vegetative cycles—that is they bud and ripen at different times—and have resistance to a variety of maladies.  The hope is that they will mitigate the effects of climate change in Bordeaux.  As the French would say, “On verra” (we’ll see).

One thing is clear—the INAO can move when it wants to.

Read more:  Michael Apstein
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