The renaissance of forgotten grape varieties

The renaissance of forgotten grape varieties

In the vast world of viticulture, a quiet revolution is underway. Amidst the dominance of well-known grape varieties like cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and merlot, there’s a growing movement to revive and celebrate forgotten grape varieties. These are grapes that once thrived in their native lands but, due to various reasons including the phylloxera epidemic, wars, and the globalization of wine tastes, had fallen out of favor or nearly vanished. This blog post delves into the renaissance of these forgotten grapes, exploring the reasons behind their revival and the unique flavors they bring to the wine world.

Rediscovering wine’s lost heritage

The push to rediscover and cultivate forgotten grape varieties is driven by a combination of factors: a desire to preserve biodiversity, the pursuit of new and unique wine flavors, and a reaction against the homogenization of global wine tastes. Winemakers and viticulturists are scouring old vineyards, historical texts, and genetic databases to identify and resurrect these lost varieties.

Statistical insight: according to the oiv (international organisation of vine and wine), there are over 10,000 grape varieties worldwide, but only a few dozen are commercially significant. This highlights the vast potential for diversity in wine flavors and profiles that is yet to be explored.

The challenges of revival

Bringing a forgotten grape variety back into production is no small feat. It involves challenges such as sourcing or regenerating viable plant material, understanding the grape’s viticultural needs, and navigating regulatory hurdles related to wine labeling and appellation controls. Moreover, there’s the task of convincing consumers and the wine market to embrace these unfamiliar varieties.

Success stories

Despite the challenges, there are numerous success stories of forgotten grapes making a triumphant return:

Godello: once nearly extinct, this white grape variety from spain’s galicia region has been revived over the past few decades. Godello wines are now praised for their complexity, minerality, and aging potential, drawing comparisons to fine burgundies.

Pais: in chile, the pais grape, brought by spanish conquistadors in the 16th century and later overshadowed by international varieties, is experiencing a renaissance. Modern winemaking techniques have revealed its potential for producing light, fresh, and characterful red wines.

Nero di troia: this ancient grape variety from puglia, italy, was often overlooked in favor of more popular italian grapes. Recent interest has highlighted its ability to produce deeply colored, aromatic wines with a distinctive elegance.

The role of technology and research

Advancements in viticultural research and winemaking technology play a crucial role in the revival of forgotten grapes. Dna profiling helps accurately identify and classify grape varieties, while modern winemaking techniques allow for the full expression of their unique characteristics. Collaborations between research institutions and winemakers are crucial for understanding and optimizing the cultivation of these varieties.

The future of forgotten grapes

The renaissance of forgotten grape varieties is more than a trend; it’s a movement towards greater diversity and sustainability in the wine industry. As consumers become more adventurous and environmentally conscious, the demand for wines made from these unique grapes is set to grow. This revival not only enriches the wine landscape with new flavors and stories but also contributes to the preservation of agricultural biodiversity and the adaptation of viticulture to climate change.

Conclusion

The revival of forgotten grape varieties represents an exciting chapter in the story of wine. It’s a testament to the resilience of these ancient grapes and the dedication of those working to bring them back from the brink of obscurity. As this movement gains momentum, wine enthusiasts can look forward to exploring a wider array of flavors and aromas, each with its own unique heritage and terroir. The renaissance of these grapes is not just about looking back into wine’s past; it’s about shaping its future.

 

Smith Marcus

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