Colin Burbidge, of Lancashire Wine School, writes about the discovery of a rare grape variety, perfect for making wine.
In the news recently the Chilean Santa Carolina company reported the discovery of a rare grape variety Plant de Chaudefonds, believed to be one of only three vines of this variety in the world and the only one outside of France.
The plant was discovered by French ampelographer Jean-Michel Boursiquot.
Santa Carolina are now cultivating a small crop of this variety as part of their R&D project to recover old grape varietals and vineyards.
The ‘Bloque Herencia’ is now in its second phase and is more than just a case of finding and growing disappearing grape varieties.
The project has real commercial value to the wine world testing recovered grape varieties for their reaction to different soils and microclimates and their potential for producing quality wine.
These grape vines are also ‘pre-phylloxera’, pre-dating the blight that devastated the world’s vines in the late 19th century.
Santa Carolina should be congratulated for this important work which mostly goes on in the background with little recognition.
In any sector of agriculture there is an ever-present risk that viral, bacterial and other evolving pathogens could wipe out the modern and most used species of food sources, whether it be Gressingham Duck, Jersey cows, King Edward potatoes or Chardonnay.
Sometimes the older breeds or plant strains are more resilient than their modern counterparts so retaining them for potential cultivation is essential disaster planning.
Around the world there are hundreds of tiny vineyards growing rare and almost-extinct grape varieties. There are probably thousands more we know nothing about.
On the Greek Island of Zakynthos the almost extinct Agiomavritiko grape is used to blend into local red wines. It’s important to say the grape variety hasn’t yet been DNA profiled so it may be related to another more common grape variety, but for now worth preserving. If you visit let me know how it tastes.
If you’re in the Rostov area of Russia try the Fioletovy Ranny wine. This rare variety, closely related to Muscat, produces wines with a ‘nutmeg’ flavour.
A more likely place to visit is Mallorca where Gorgollasa has been rescued from just four remining vines in 1998 to now small production across over 2,000 vines by a number of producers. The grape is related to one of my favourites, Monastrell, producing dry wines with strawberry and violet. You can buy online or visit a winery on your next Mallorca holiday.
Georgia in the Caucasus produces wines from many unusual grape varieties with names hard to get your tongue around but the wines have no problem on the
palate being of great quality and well worth a try.
I’ve featured some of these wines in this column before but even local specialist wine supplier Turton Wines doesn’t have Shavkapito on its list. This red-fruit red wine has a smoky edge to it without any exposure to oak.
There are many more rare-varietals being cultivated in small vineyards in Italy, Greece, Brazil and even India.
So seek them out and by drinking the wines you can have the satisfaction of helping to preserve them for future generations.