Bordeaux winemakers allow new grapes to fight climate change

A potentially landmark vote has seen seven new grape varieties approved for Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur appellation wines as part of efforts to fight climate change.

A proposal to allow the new grape varieties into Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur appellation vineyards passed a key winemaker vote late last week, according to a statement from the wine union, or Syndicat.

The seven varieties include Marselan and Portuguese favourite Touriga Nacional, plus the lesser known Castets and Arinarnoa, which is a cross between Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon.

For white wines, the new grapes are Alvarinho, Petit Manseng and Liliorila, which was born in the 1950s following a crossing of Baroque and Chardonnay.

France’s national appellation authority, INAO, must still give final approval to the plan, but it is a potentially groundbreaking move to combat the effects of climate change.

Benefits of the seven grapes range from relatively good natural resistance to specific diseases, such as grey rot and mildew, to a proven ability to cope with warmer conditions.

Decanter’s Bordeaux expert, Jane Anson, said the plan should be a ‘wake-up call’ for the wider industry on climate change.

‘I would have expected Bordeaux bureaucracy to move more slowly, but clearly the governing bodies see the importance of giving winemakers the flexibility and agility to react.’

It is early days in the process, but Anson said that Merlot could be most affected by the changes, because of its greater susceptibility to heat.

She said the move was potentially a big cultural change. ‘It will be fascinating to track it.’

The new grapes would be allowed to constitute up to 10% of the final blend, but only 5% of a producer’s vineyard area. If final approval is given, plantings could begin in the 2020/21 season, said the Le Syndicat Viticole des AOC Bordeaux & Bordeaux Supérieur.

Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur make up 55% of Bordeaux’s vineyard area, producing 384 million bottles of wine per year, according to the union body for the appellations.


See also: Châteauneuf-du-Pape red wines to contain more white grapes