Chardonnay, Syrah, Zinfandel and Chenin Blanc could be grown and produced in Bordeaux if the French appellations body approves trials of the grapes later this month.
The INAO (National Institute of Appellations) will decide at the end of February whether to permit tests of the varieties, all currently illegal in Bordeaux wines.
During the trials, between four and eight locations will be tested for each of the varieties. The tests will last eight years (three years prior to harvest, then five years of harvest).
During this time, only 10% of any vineyard participating in the tests can contain the new varieties. However, the grapes can be used in a wine blend (across any appellation) that is intended for sale – a maximum of 30% in the final blend can be used.
Veronique Barthe of Chateau la Freynelle, who is working on the project with the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur Union, told decanter.com this was not a form of sacrilege.
‘We are not trying to make 100% Syrah in Bordeaux, but to test which grapes work best on which terroir in the region with the intention of introducing them only if they offer real quality,’ she said.
Barthe added that the new grapes ‘offer better alternatives to accessory grapes’, including Ugni Blanc.
‘The results may also useful in terms of potential climate change. We can look into which grapes may be able to adapt to and withstand greater temperatures,’ she said.
The red grapes for trial will be Marselan, Syrah, Zinfandel and Arinarnoa. In white, Liliorila, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng Blanc and Chenin Blanc will be tested.
Bordeaux is currently only allowed to grow Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc for red wines, with Petit Verdot, Carmenere and Malbec as accessory grapes. Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle are the major white varieties, with Ugni Blanc, Odenc, Colombard, Mauzac and Merlot Blanc as accessory grapes.
Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux