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

Jacopo Mazzeo

Jacopo Mazzeo

07 December 2018

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 receive applications over the course of 2019, with winegrowers starting trials as of next vintage.

Related content

News |  Wine

Chianti winegrowers call for experimentation with disease-resistant hybrid grape varieties

Giovanni Busi, president of the Chianti Wine Consortium, has stated that it's time winegrowers are allowed to work with resistant hybrid grape varieti

News |  Wine

Sicily rediscovers six indigenous grape varieties previously thought to be extinct

Six indigenous Sicilian winegrapes previously deemed lost have been rediscovered and added to the Italian National Register of Grape Varieties. The si

News |  Wine

Alternative Australia: Moving away from traditional grape varieties

Climate change and shifting tastes are encouraging winemakers Down Under to look away from traditional Aussie grape varieties, finds Chris Losh.

News |  Wine

Top wine producers go for secondary grape varieties for affordable quality

At this year's Sommelier Wine Awards (SWA), Christine Parkinson, Hakkasan's group head of wine and the competition's head of judging, noticed a trend