Chateau Lafite Rothschild’s Vineyard in China Grows the Marselan Grape

I was interested to see that Chateau Lafite Rothschild’s vineyard in China is growing 2 grape varieties not grown in Bordeaux: Syrah (Shiraz) and Marselan. Marselan is a relatively new grape variety and was first bred in 1961 near the French town of Marseillan, from whence it takes its name.

It was bred by researchers at INRA (the National Institute for Agricultural Research) and is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. The aim was to get a grape variety with the structure and elegance of Cabernet Sauvignon and the colour, robust depth and heat tolerance of Grenache.

Marselan grapes are very small so its produces a low yield and the grape did not take off back in the 1960s. The first Marselan varietal wine was made in 2002 by a winery near Carcassone called Domaine Devereux. However it is now grown in small pockets of the Languedoc and in tiny amounts in the USA – where it is starting to increase in popularity.

The wines that Marselan produces are strongly coloured, aromatic, well structured and ageable. Tasting notes describe the nose and flavour of the wines as plum, cherry

Marselan is late to bud and late to ripen and thrives in dry, well drained soils, being well adapted to a hot, sunny climate. It’s also fairly resistant to fungus so would be a good choice for rainy regions. Lafite’s vineyard in Penglai lies in a Maritime climate so this should suit Marselan quite well.

Lafite has invested (with their partner Chinese investment group Citic) around 100 million yens (around 12.5 million euros) to plant vines starting from scratch over 25 – 30 hectares, 9 km of dry stone walls around the vineyard plots, a chai and a 1,600 m2 “château” that will be a combination of European and Asian cultures.

The grapes planted are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Marselan. Lafite hope to produce its first Chinese vintage by 2016 and to produce 120,000 bottles . . . 90% of which will be destined for the Chinese market.

According to Lafite are not alone – there are now more than 40 chateaux of varying styles in Yantai (Penglai is a county level city in Yantai), some are wine producing and others are tourist attractions that cater for the 1.5 million tourists that visit every year.

Penglai alone has 30 luxury chateaux built by world-renowned wineries including domestic brands Junding and Century Chateaux and Treaty Port Vineyard. They have a combined 6,667 hectares of vineyards under cultivation and produce more than 20,000 tons of high-end wines annually. Apparently 10 more chateaux will be built in Yantai by 2015 targeting the high-end wine market and further promoting wine-themed tourism.

Leave a Comment