Bordeaux Aims To Protect Its Future With New Grape Varieties

Posted: Feb 09, 2021

Climate change and rising temperature degrees are of intense interest to wine producers. With each degree that temperatures increase, higher alcohol-by-volume (abv) measures soon follow. Red wines that were 12% abv 30 years ago have crept up to 13.5%, 14.5% and even 15% in the 2018 Bordeaux vintage.

Producers in Bordeaux are worried. Concern is so prevalent that there have been moves toward changing wine regulations and plantings within the iconic region for more than a decade.

Initially, there were 52 varieties contending for space in the new Bordeaux blend, planted in a vineyard that became known as Plot 52. The French National Research Institute of Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE), via the Bordeaux VitAdapt program, oversaw the experiments. The project was designed to track Bordeaux variety behavior in a climate change context and track the quality and drought resistance of the newcomers in the Bordeaux climate and terroir.

As the climate gets hotter, winemakers around the world are trying to work against climate-caused changes in taste using many techniques. The report states that slowing the taste progression with drought-resistant, later ripening grapes benefits a blended wine such as Bordeaux more than a single-variety wine.

On January 26, 2021, the Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité (INAO), which controls such regulations, formally approved the use of four new red and two new white grape varieties in the Bordeaux region. The experimental Bordeaux grapes are Arinarnoa, Castets, Marselan and Touriga Nacional for reds, and Alvarinho and Liliorila for whites. They will be official in the government registry bulletin in a few weeks, and planting starts in April.

By Roger Voss and Kathleen Buckley
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