‘Frankenstein wine’ warning over French supergrapes

Hybrid super grapes will produce ‘FRANKENSTEIN’ French wines that won’t have the same flavour as classic varieties, say purists (but they will be cheaper)

By Imogen Blake for MailOnline | 8 August 2018

  • France develops four new types of grape that are resistant to mildew attacks
  • Critics say wines made from the new varieties won’t have as much ‘personality’
  • It will bring in a generation of ‘cut-price wines’ to compete with Spain, they say
  • But others say the new varieties will cut down on the use of fungicides

Disease-resistant ‘super grapes’ developed to reduce the use of fungicides will result in ‘Frankenstein’ wines that lack the flavour of classic French varieties, according to purists.

Four new hybrid varieties of grapes have recently been created in laboratories that are artificially resistant to diseases such as mildew, which have decimated French vineyards in the last few years.

There are four new varieties of hybrid super grape that are disease-resistant without being genetically modified: Voltis, Artaban, Floreal, and Vidoc (pictured: red wine grapes in a French vineyard)

The French National Institute for Agronomic Research (Inra) says the new varieties will help the environment as it will reduce the need to spray vineyards with eco-unfriendly fungicide chemicals.

But winemakers say the new grapes were really developed to launch a new generation of ‘cut-price wines’ that will taste more artificial and less flavoursome than classic bottles.

The new grapes are not genetically modified but are hybrid varieties created by mixing American vine genes with European ones.

But winemaker and researcher, Thomas Dormegnies, from Vendée, in western France, told The Telegraph that the inter-continental varieties would result in ‘artificial and unnatural ‘Frankenstein wine’.

He added: ‘This is like crossing a monkey with and a man: it may be technically possible but it goes against nature.’

Critics have said wines made from the new hybrid grapes won’t have as much ‘personality’ and will be cheaper industrial plonk – but others say they were ‘seduced’ by the flavours (pictured: stock photo of red and white wines with grapes in front)

He also told The Times: ‘These laboratory varieties are for industrial winemaking and aim to compete with cheap wines from Spain. They are preparing us for a generation of cut-price wines.’

The new grape varieties have been in development for some years but they were officially authorised by the French government this year after downy mildew destroyed grape crops across the country.

Some vineyards in Bordeaux estimate that up to 70 per cent of this year’s grape harvest was ruined compared to a normal winemaking year, according to The Times.

Inra claims that ‘the winegrowing sector will be able to sustain its image of quality and excellence’ by using the new varieties.

However, Mr Dormegnies told The Telegraph that he was ‘underwhelmed’ by the taste of wines made using the new hybrid grapes.

Vice president of France Vin Bio, Jacques Frélin, told NouvelObsmagazine: ‘It’s obvious that a hybrid grape variety will produce a wine with less personality.’

Some winemakers are more enthusiastic, however, with one wine producer telling The Times he was ‘seduced’ by the flavours.

What are the four new varieties of disease-resistant hybrid grapes?

  • Voltis – Inra says wines made from these grapes are ‘supple, ample and persistent’
  • Artaban – Said to produce ‘light and silky’ wines
  • Floreal – ‘Expressive, aromatic and pleasantly fresh’
  • Vidoc – Makes wines that Inra calls ‘robust’

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