France allows new grape varieties in AOC wines to address sustainability issues

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Drinks: Wines

Bordeaux made with Mourvedre, Burgundy with a touch of Poulsard, and Sancerre with a squeeze of Voltis?

If for some this sounds like oenological apocalypse,  these are all perfectly acceptable scenarios, according to a recently-approved motion by the INAO’s wine committee, which regulates French wine appellations.

‘This change is motivated by the society’s concerns towards the environment and climate change,’ said Christian Paly, chairman of the INAO’s wine committee.

Individual winegrowers can now apply to make AOC wine by cultivating and using grape varieties not currently allowed by appellation disciplinaries. Growers must justify the request by certifying that it will make their vineyards more environmentally sustainable or adapt well to climate change.

This revolutionary programme allows winegrowers to experiment for up to 20 years. The INAO’s wine committee will closely monitor the grapes’ performance, ie health, vigour, organoleptic qualities, throughout the project.

‘Particular attention will be paid to the issues of long-term adaptability and resistance [to diseases], and to varieties that can help limit the use of pesticides, reduce alcohol content in the final wine, or adapt well to drought conditions,’  Philippe Doumenc, INAO national inspector, told Imbibe.

The INAO’s final goal is to select a total of 20 successful grape varieties – 10 red and 10 white – and form a ‘list of varieties for climatic and environmental adaptation’. There are restrictions as to what winegrowers can do during the experiment. The new varieties cannot cover more than 5% of the grower’s own vineyard area or constitute more than 10% of the final blend. Additionally, no information on their use can be disclosed to the public, either on websites or  labels.

Growers may select varieties from the list of those already classified for French wine production, or may chose new crosses or even hybrids. Hybrids of recent creation such as Artaban, Vidoc, Floreal and Voltis, developed by the Observatoire National du Déploiement des Cépages Résistants, are already been experimented with in champagne.

The INAO is expecting to received applications over the course of 2019, with winegrowers starting trials as of next vintage.

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  1. Pingback: Sustainability and new AOC regulations - Anthroenology

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