Bordeaux receives approval for six new grape varieties

Six new grape varieties have been approved in the Bordeaux region.

The announcement, by the Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualite (INAO), a division of France’s Ministry of Agriculture, represents the culmination of a decade of research by wine scientists and growers of Bordeaux to address the impact of climate change.

The four red and two white approved varieties are well-adapted to alleviate hydric stress associated with temperature increases and shorter growing cycles.

The red grapes are Arinarnoa, Castets, Marselan and Touriga Nacional, and the whites are Alvarinho and Liliorila. The first plantings of the new varieties are planned for 2021.

Bordeaux winegrowers now have an expanded catalogue of varieties with different growth cycles and ripening periods. In addition to the six new varieties, AOC specifications also allow six benchmark red varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Carménère, Petit Verdot; and up to eight white varieties: Sémillon, SauvignonBlanc, Sauvignon Gris, Muscadelle, Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Merlot Blanc and Mauzac.

Representatives of the region said Bordeaux's scientific experts have laid the groundwork for a sustainable future based on research, experimentation and collaboration. Over 52 varieties were subjected to intense scrutiny over the past decade, with only six making the final cut. Under the revised national guidelines, the six additional Bordeaux grape varietals were named “new varieties of interest for adapting to climate change.”

They are limited to 5% of the planted vineyard area; cannot account for more than 10% of the final blend of any given colour; and as such, per legal regulations for labelling, will not appear on Bordeaux labels.

The winemakers of Bordeaux AOC & Bordeaux Supérieur first announced their intent to authorize new varieties in June 2019 to lessen the effects of climate change. Now that it’s official, winegrowers can diversify their plantings and further develop the timeless art of blending Bordeaux wines. Ancestral varieties that were previously harder to handle are also making a comeback in the vineyards, highlighting Bordeaux’s willingness to take decisive action.

For example, Petit Verdot, a late-ripening variety known for its appealing violet and liquorice notes, has benefitted from global warming: plantings of Petit Verdot are up +191% as of 2018.

In addition to plant materials, Bordeaux has introduced other enological and agricultural practices to adapt to climate change. These include adapting best practices to the needs of each vintage, such as delayed pruning; increasing vine trunk height to reduce leaf area; limiting leaf-thinning to protect grapes from sun; adapting plot sites to minimize hydric stress; night harvesting; and reducing plant density. Bordeaux winegrowers are planning well ahead in the quest o continue offering consumers aromatic, balanced wines of quality.

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