The forgotten grape resuscitated in the Loire

Old vines, new records and shady deals dominate this week’s roundup.

| The Clos du Tue-Boeuf cellars in Blois will soon be aging a unique wine from a grape variety that has almost disappeared.

Have you ever dreamed of switching from the same old options of pinot, cabernet and merlot? A newly rediscovered grape variety might help.

Although it is unlikely to do much damage to major red grape varieties, the story of how it avoided extinction and was replanted is definitely worth reading. And that’s not all we found when we scoured for under-the-radar news stories this week – the Sicilian shenanigans and Europe’s first winter wine harvest are also on the cards. -you.

The Star Loire winemaker plants forgotten grape varieties

Thierry and Zoë Puzelat of Clos du Tue-Boeuf (one of the big names in the Loire on the low-intervention wine scene) embarked on a trial of a long-forgotten red varietal that once graced the property in the 19th century . The Puzelats are set to plant 82 young Lineage vines on their estate this week, beginning a ten-year trial of the variety.

The Lignage grape variety is so rare that a few years ago, the only remaining plant material (a vine stock) was nearly destroyed at the INRA nursery in Montpellier (well-known reference for grapes) following a virus infection. It took INRA four years to effectively cultivate the virus in order to propagate the variety on a healthy and larger scale.

The 82 plants were delivered to the Montils property, just south of Blois in eastern Touraine, this week. The grape variety has a special meaning for the Puzelat because not only did the estate once count the Lignage among its grape varieties, but its rebirth had already been considered.

“We wanted to revive this grape variety because it was an unsuccessful family project of my father and we thought that we would like to have some vines on the property”, explains Thierry Puzelat. Officially, the planting is an experimental project and the grape variety does not appear on any appellation title.

The relaunch of Lignage is part of a larger project led by the local community, the Union of Genetic Resources of Centre-Val de Loire (URGC), led by local personality François Bonhomme.

“It’s the only regional operation that takes an interest in local biodiversity – it’s the combination of a number of associations in the region,” Bonhomme told Wine-Searcher. “Some look at the preservation of certain races [of animal]others to vegetables and fruit trees, etc.

He said the aim of the group was to defend and appreciate the old varieties (Vitis vinifera) linked to the region before the arrival of phylloxera at the end of the 19th century.

“I identified about 50 varieties,” he added.

The lineage itself has a long history in the region, with the first written mentions of the grape dating back to 1427. It was also known as Macé Doux, Macédoux, Massé Doux or Lignage de Blois. It is usually found in the Blois region, and in the early to mid-19th century it made a name for itself in a wine-growing area known as the Côte des Grouëts.

The variety is similar to Pinot Noir in that it produces a relatively lightly colored red wine and can even be vinified into a white wine. The vine produces relatively small clusters of purple, egg-shaped berries with little or no shoulders on the cluster.

As a wine, relatively little is known. According to the literature, the Lineage produced a fine, delicate, lightly colored red wine with fine aromas and a low alcohol content.

The plant buds late and is particularly susceptible to powdery mildew. Apart from the ravages of phylloxera in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, part of the variety’s decline in popularity was its low yield combined with a clear preference for a warmer site.

Hopefully more will be known in 2024, when the first test wines should be produced. By 2026-28, it is hoped that the variety will enter official vine catalogs and that enough plant material will be available for wider planting.

Other rare grape varieties in the Loire region include Gascon rouge (of which one hectare would remain), Genouillet (four hectares), Gouget Noir (seven hectares) and Meslier-Saint-François (nine hectares/22 acres).

Cops attack a fraudulent vineyard in Sicily

Italian anti-fraud police this week raided a Sicilian winery suspected of producing more than 5 million euros ($5.44 million) of fake wine, made by fermenting a mixture of sugar and water and then selling it to various establishments in the country. According to local reports, police seized more than 3 million liters of fake wine in Canteen Simonetti winery in Monreale, southwest of Palermo, which had produced the “wine” by combining beet and cane sugar (acquired on the black market) with water.

The police also blocked sales and shipments of the fake wine across the country. According to the regional newspaper La Sicilia, “the owner of the winery, assisted by eight other people, is accused of counterfeiting geographical indications or designations of origin and fraud in the exercise of trade and sale of substances non-authentic food”.

“At a time when Sicilian wine is experiencing a real boom all over the world, it is necessary to strengthen controls around those who harm, even minimally, the activity of thousands of producers in the sector”, said declared the local wine trade body, Coldiretti Sicilia, told Palermo Today.

The fraud would have gone as far as the seizure of fictitious records of deliveries of grapes, musts and wines (and processing operations) to hide unexplained production volumes. Authorities estimate that between 2020 and 2021, more than four million liters of “wine product” were sold across Italy – mostly to other wineries and vinegar factories.

Bordeaux wine thieves arrested

And no painstaking police work in Gironde this week, after local gendarmes took just seven days to charge a trio suspected of trying to flee with nearly 1,400 bottles of wine from warehouses in Libourne, a wine-growing and storage center serving numerous operations in the Pomerol and Saint-Émilion region. With an estimated value of €38,000, the boxes were stolen on the nights of March 13 to 14.

On March 21, officers raided a suspect home and, in addition to placing three suspects under arrest, they were able to recover 970 of the bottles. The identity of the bottles and cellars stolen by the gang has not been published.

Two of the suspects are due to appear before a judge this month while the third is already in jail on a separate charge.

First winter harvest in Europe

A small vineyard in the Canary Islands is said to have produced Europe’s first dry white wine from grapes grown in winter. The Lanzarote vineyard, which has around 1,800 vines, is located in Playa Quemada – one of the driest parts of the island – and early reports indicate that the vines underwent better physiological maturation during the summer months. winter than during summer.

“What we are seeing is that the grapes are under greater pressure [during winter]”, Bodega El Grifo winemaker Jorge Rodríguez told national television channel RTVE. “This means that we have a much higher quality than in the summer. In summer, the grapes ripened in practically two weeks, thanks to the sun. Today, they ripen thanks to the sugars they are able to assimilate from the plant.”

The resulting wine should contain around 12% alcohol by volume with “good natural freshness”, according to the outlet.

Rodríguez thinks other such arid areas could also harbor vineyards for a winter harvest. Project sponsors also pointed out that the vineyards would not be expected to produce two harvests in one year, but instead winter wines would be released in a historically quiet period in the wine market.

La Rioja sees solid growth in wine exports

Despite a slight drop in production in 2021 (by 0.7 percent), Rioja wine exports continue to increase in value, posting exports of 547.8 million euros ($595.8 million ) last year, up more than five percent from the previous year, continuing a solid trend of year-on-year growth in value since 2018. According to data from the Spanish Tax Agency (AEAT) and the Spanish Wine Market Observatory (OeMv), the region exported just over 113 million liters last year.

Major markets in Spain’s main region last year included China (up 43% in value and 19% in volume), Belgium (up a quarter in value and a third in volume ), the United States (up 14% in value and 5% in volume) and Canada (up 12% in value and 5% in volume).

Despite a decline in 2018 and 2019, the value of Rioja wine exports has increased steadily since 2010, when export volumes also increased significantly. While export volumes grew only slowly, hovering around 110 million litres, the value continued to climb, rising from 339 million euros ($369 million) in 2010.

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