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Bordeaux: Semillon shortage threatens future vintages

A group of high profile Bordeaux producers are calling attention to a shortage of Semillon which may impede production in the future.

Following promising comments about 2007 Bordeaux whites, Laurent Lebrun, technical director at Chateau Olivier in Pessac-Leognan, expressed concern about the dearth of good quality Semillon vines available in Bordeaux and elsewhere. This may prove problematic for replanting, particularly in Pessac-Leognan and Sauternes.

‘As Semillon becomes less fashionable worldwide, fewer clones are grown in nurseries,’ Lebrun told decanter.com. ‘Finding good quality new vines is getting more difficult.’

While it was once the most-planted grape in the world, it is now rare outside the region – 95% of France’s Semillon is grown in Bordeaux, the remainder grows in Chile, South Africa and Australia. The grape doesn’t even make it into the top 10 most popular varieties.

In Bordeaux, Semillon is often blended with Sauvignon blanc for both sweet and dry wines. The Bordelais worry that if they must rely too heavily on Sauvignon Blanc, the character profile of their wines might change.

With this in mind, 17 producers have formed an association to grow their own clones. The group includes among others Chateau d’Yquem, Chateau Olivier, Chateau Suduiraud and Chateau La Tour Blanche.

‘There needs to be a better clonal selection to keep the quality level of the wines high,’ said Xavier Planty, director at Chateau Guiraud in Sauternes.

‘The more diversity you have in a parcel, the more you can protect against diseases – and of course the greater the diversity of aromas and flavours.’

Written by Jane Anson

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