During what has been a gripping heatwave across France, Bordeaux is heating things up more with potential changes in their grape regulations. In an effort to adapt to climate change (and for the first time in history), non-native Bordeaux grapes will be allowed in their blends. The two largest regions Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supériuer will be the regions with the approval.
Since the Bordeaux AOC was established, the only red grapes permitted have been Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carménère. Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Muscadelle, Ugni Blanc, and Sauvignon Gris were the approved white wine grapes.
What are the new grapes?
The grapes under consideration are generally late-ripening grapes that are capable of withstanding pests, heat, and frost conditions.
Among the reds:
Arinarnoa: a Tannat/Cabernet Sauvignon cross that is less susceptible to grey rot damage. Wines are well-structured, with dark red fruits, strong tannins, and aromatic.
Touriga Nacional: a late-ripening grape from Portugal that is less susceptible to most fungal diseases. Wines are concentrated, deep-colored, full-bodied, structured, and suitable for aging.
Castets: an almost extinct grape variety that is less susceptible to grey rot, powdery mildew, and mildew. Wines are suitable for aging.
Marselan: a late-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon/Grenache cross that is at lower risk of grey rot, powdery mildew, and mite damage. Wines are distinctive in color and flavor, as well as suitable for aging.
Among the whites:
Petit Manseng: a late-ripening, aromatic variety that is at much lower risk of grey rot damage. Wines can range from dry to sweet and the variety is gaining a lot of popularity amongst Sommeliers.
Albariño: a high-quality Spanish varietal whose grapes’ thick skins help them withstand warm and damp climates, also lower risk of grey rot damage. Wines are aromatic with good acidity and bold flavors.
What else can we expect?
There will be strict conditions for their use. Each property will be limited to growing the new grapes in just 5% of its vineyards. And in any given wine, the new varieties can only be 10% of the blend.
We asked Franck Travers of Château Belloy in Canon-Fronsac his thoughts and he explained, “The only thing I can tell you, for now, is that we are studying new opportunities, but I don’t see it happening for a long time. The climate has not changed yet. It’s just about being ready in case there is a dramatic change one day.” He further went to explain, “It takes a generation to change the blend of a region as you need to replant vines. And vines are at their best after 30 years, so as we are only at the research level right now.”
A possible big move that is sure to strike some controversies, but perhaps Bordeaux is setting a precedent for other old world wine regions.