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Bordeaux’s Area 51: Parcelle 52

Europe change in areas suitable for growing wine grapes through 2050Bordeaux has its very own experimental testing ground but unlike Area 51 in the USA, Bodeaux’s Parcelle 52 doesn’t attract any conspiracy theories about aliens or little green men.

Parcelle 52 is an acre of land that has been planted with 52 grape varieties from around the world, in Key - change in areas suitable for growing wine grapes through 2050Gradignan, south of Bordeaux. It’s run by l’Institut des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin de Bordeaux Aquitaine and research is being carried out there into how these different grape varieties cope in Bordeaux’s climate. The project is called Vitadapt and the research includes phenotyping (for example, recording the bud break, flowering and verasion times of each grape variety). Wine making from the grapes will not be attempted for another 2 – 3 years.

huglinLast April the press was awash with the news published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that thanks to climate change Bordeaux’s wine producing areas could dry up by 2050. If this proves to be true Bordeaux’s grape varieties would not be able to thrive in such conditions. Of course such predictions are not infallible but there is a useful bioclimatic heat index that was developed for vineyards which is based on the temperatures that certain grapes can thrive in. It’s called the Huglin Index and it shows a less drastic prediction than April’s headlines.

In this scenario Bordeaux will not be grapeless but will have to adapt to growing different grapes. If it gets too hot the grapes grown in Bordeaux nowadays would ripen prematurely and result in earlier harvests – which means that the grapes would not have time to develop properly and would contain too much sugar and not enough acidity. Researchers at Vitadapt are interested in the maturation times of the grapes at Parcelle 52.

Parcelle 52 was planted in 2009 and there are 32 red grape varieties including 2 resistant hybrids and 20 white grape varieties including three resistant hybrids. They include some typical Bordeaux grape varieties and there are also some from other regions in France as well as Spain, Portugal, Greece, Georgia, Bulgaria, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. I thought it would be interesting to have a look at some of the varieties being grown in Parcelle 52.

mouvedreRed Grapes

Mouvèdre – probably Spanish in origin but also grown in the Rhone and Provence

Castets – historically grown in the Aveyron, S W France but now nearly extinct

Morrastel – Spanish grape grown in Rioja, also in the Languedoc Roussillon

Prunelard – historically grown in Gaillac, S W France and considered to be the father of Malbec but now nearly extinct

Arinarnoa – a cross between Merlot and Petit Verdot, grown in the Languedoc Roussillon and Provence

Temparanillo – Spanish grape used in Rioja

Carignan – probably originated in Aragon, Spain and historically used in Rioja. Widely planted in S W France

castetsMarselan – a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. Grown in Catalonia, Spain and also the Languedoc Roussillon and southern Rhone

Vinhao (Sousao) – Portuguese grape used in the making of Port and also grown in Spain

Tinto Cao – Portuguese grape used to make Port

Tourigna Nacional and Touringa Francesca – Portuguese grapes used to make Port and also red wines from the Douro and Dao

Grenache – probably originated in the Aragon region of Northern Spain but also grown in the Rhone and Southern France

Tannat – a Basque grape and grown near the Pyrenees, notably used in Madiran

Saperavi – a Georgian grape but also grown in Eastern Europe

mavrudCornalin – A Swiss grape grown in the Valais region of Switzerland

Xynomavro – Greek grape from Macedonia, Greece

Sangiovese – Italian grape grown across Italy but also a few plantings in the Languedoc Roussillon

Agiorgiitiko – Greek grape widely planted throughout Greece

Nero d’Avola – Italian grape grown in Sicily

Mavrud – Bulgarian grape grown in Kara Thrace, Bulgaria

liliWhite Grapes

Roussanne – grown in the Rhone and also in the Languedoc Roussillon, Provence and Savoie.

Liliorila – a cross between Baroque and Chardonnay, grown in S W France and quite rare

Hibernal – a German cross between Seibel and Riesling

Assyrtiko – a Greek grape that originates from the island of Santorini

rkatRkatsiteli – a Georgian grape still grown in its ancestral home and also in Russia, Bulgaria and the Ukraine

Riesling – German grape grown in the Rhine and also in Alsace

Petite Arvine – A Swiss grape grown in Valais region of Switzerland

Chasselas – Possibly Swiss in origin and grown in the Valais region of Switzerland but also in the Loire

Although I won’t be around to see it should Bordeaux warm up to the extent predicted in 2050 these are some of the grapes we could see being used in the wines.

Photograph Credit: Conservation International

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