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6 new grape varieties approved for use in Bordeaux wines


Bordeaux, probably the most well-known wine region in the world, has taken an unprecedented move to address the impact of climate change on viticulture. 

As of end-January 2021, France’s governing body for agriculture, the Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualite (INAO), has officially recognized and approved the use of six new grape varieties in Bordeaux winemaking.

The development comes as the Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB) seeks to maneuver around climate change as it takes its toll on winemakers. They are adapting early in order to combat the potential adverse fallout from changing environmental conditions, and in an eco-friendly way.

The six new grape varieties now usable by Bordeaux wineries include Arinarnoa, Castets, Marselan, Touriga Nacional, Alvarinho and Liliorila. The former four are reds while the latter two are whites.

A vineyard in Bordeaux, France.

According to the CIVB, one trait these new varieties have is that they are all “well-adapted to alleviate hydric stress associated with temperature increases and shorter growing cycles”. Over 52 varieties were considered the past 10 years through rigorous research before arriving at these six.

Other useful characteristics they share include a naturally high acidity, structure, ability to age well and offering potent aromatics, plus resistance to vine diseases such as grey rot and mildew.

There are restrictions as to how a winemaker can use these new varieties, however. The CIVB has stated that for now, these six grapes can collectively only take up 5 percent of the producer’s vineyard plot. They are also only allowed to be used in blends, making up to 10% of the final product at most.

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Because of these regulations, it is unlikely that you’ll be seeing these new varieties being mentioned on bottle labels once they hit the market, due to current French labelling rules.

The proud wine region of Bordeaux traditionally only use Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot for red wines and Colombard, Mauzac, Merlot Blanc, Muscadelle, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Semillon and Ugni Blanc for white wines.