Friday, August 14, 2015

New varieties available to the South African wine industry

Ongoing climate change affects the characteristics of the grape harvest in many wine regions. Depending on weather conditions and market needs, it is necessary to correct the composition of the grapes, grape must or wine, for organoleptically balanced products.

Since 2007 Vititec has been involved in an import program in order to provide a wider range of cultivars available for South African winemakers to be more innovative in their plantings. A total of 17 new varieties and 63 new clones were imported over the last 8 years.

Some of these varieties, mainly from the Mediterranean area, can be the South African wine producers  answer to adapt to climate change. Through this approach, Vititec  also provides the wine industry with internationally renowned grape varieties capable of producing exciting wines suitable for the changing market.

Vititec, in association with local producers and nurseries, is currently involved with the planting and evaluation of this varieties new to the South African wine industry. This work is ongoing with other grape varieties with a view to adapt to water stress (Agiorgitiko, Nero d’Avola, Zinfandel (syn. Primitivo) and  Torrontes.

It should be noted that the main objectives of Vititec is to improve the potential of the wine plant material while maintaining all the characteristics and identity of each variety. Vititec contributes to the conservation of all varieties of vines grown by both the sanitary quality of plants free of viruses through the consideration of the diversity of grape varieties and wine types. This activity is a real link between research and production, unique in its structure, operations and results. Most of the vine varieties propagated by Vititec and its partners are under license from ENTAV-INRA®. The  mark demonstrates a recognized know-how and acquired from vines evaluated over more than 40 years. It guarantees the origin, authenticity, plant health quality and the genetic origin of the clones.

The new varieties available:
- Macabeu (syn. Viura): white variety from Spain (Catalogne). It is a vigorous and productive variety with large clusters and medium berry size. It is a late ripening variety and well adapted to hot climates. The wines are pleasant both often lack acidity. Carefully grown, with limited yields, this variety known as Viura in Spain,  could produce really very delicious, full-bodied and ageworthy dry white Riojas.

- Vermentino: white variety from Italy. It is a vigorous and productive variety with large clusters and medium to large berry size. The cultivar is well adapted to drought and less fertile soils. This is a typical Mediterranean grape variety, retaining its acidity well even in relatively warm regions. It is the dominant white wine grape of Sardinia and Corsica. Vermentino or Rolle is also widely grown through southern France, where it can produce much livelier wines than some of those made from fuller-bodied varieties such as Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Viognier.

- Counoise: red grape variety from Provence, France. It has medium clusters and large to medium berry size. One of the 13 grapes permitted in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Counoise is also found in the Languedoc and occasionally throughout the Southern Rhone. It is often use in blends and its contributions to the blend is a peppery flavor and high acidity. Occasionally encountered as a peppery, dusty varietal that is usefully high in acid.

- Petit Manseng: white grape variety from the south west of France. It is a vigorous variety with small clusters and very small berry size. It has the ability of high acidity at high sugar levels and produce aromatic dry and seet wines of very good quality. The small-berried Petit Manseng is also the key to making Jurançon Moelleux, which owes its sweetness not to noble rot but to shrivelling, or raisining, on the vine.

- Piquepoul blanc: white grape variety from Languedoc, France. It is a fertile and productive grape variety with large clusters and medium berry size. The variety is late ripening and well suited to sandy soils and hot climates. It is a traditional Languedoc variety making high-acid, full-bodied, lemony wines of which the best known is Picpoul de Pinet made around the village of Pinet. The high acidity makes it also an ideal blending partner to freshen up white wines.

- Terret noir: red grape variety from Languedoc-Roussillon. It has large clusters and medium berry size and is well suited to hot and dry climates. It is one of the cultivars permitted in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and produce fruity, light coloured wines.

- Lledoner pelut: - mutation of Grenache noir. It is a vigorous variety and is less sensitive to coulure than Grenache noir. It has medium to large clusters and medium berry size. Now appreciated as an entirely separate variety, Lledoner Pelut was for a long time considered to be a clone of Grenache. It differs from Grenache Noir in that it has a hairy leaves on the lower side, hence its name “Pelut”. Lledoner is the Catalan name for the “Micocoulier”, or European hackberry tree, a lovely southern tree that grows small black berries with a large kernel. The variety is generally grown alongside Grenache gris and Grenache noir in Catalonia. It ripens slightly later than Grenache Noir, but is less sensitive to oxidation and gives fruitier wines.

- Sauvignon gris: mutation of Sauvignon blanc. Description corresponds with Sauvignon blanc, except for the grey or sometimes rose skin colour at full maturity. Although it is a mutation of Sauvignon Blanc (in fact it is sometimes also known as Sauvignon Rose), it does actually taste rather like a cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris - seems to have the extra richness and aroma of a good Pinot gris but the crisp green acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc.

- Marselan: red grape variety from a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. It has medium to large clusters and small berries with low production. Marselan has the creamy, fleshy texture of Grenache along with the complexity of Cabernet Sauvignon, which also imparts a trace of tannin to the mix. It has a little of everything: tasty red-cherry fruit, a somewhat flashy mouthfeel, and soft but discernible tannins.

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