‘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’

Related news

French vineyard was a tarnished asset when it was sold on a handshake – now it’s a $1b superstar

Devon Pendleton | May 16, 2018

Chateau Margaux dates from 1812; the property, now owned by Corinne Mentzelopoulos, has been a wine estate since the 18th century.

When her father died in 1980, Corinne Mentzelopoulos inherited a business empire that included 1600 grocery stores, 80 buildings in central Paris, a hotel that was once the home of Louis XIV-and a run-down vineyard the family had purchased almost on a whim three years earlier.

Today, the vineyard has made her a billionaire. It’s Chateau Margaux, one of just a handful of properties that can claim the prized Premier Cru designation bestowed by Napoleon III in 1855 upon Bordeaux’s very best terroirs for making wine.

Continue reading “French vineyard was a tarnished asset when it was sold on a handshake – now it’s a $1b superstar”

Things you always wanted to know about wine

Cathy Gowdie – Stuff | October 25, 2017

(These are some excerpts from an article which actually canvassed 10 things you might want to know about wine. I have picked out several that I found more interesting. The rest, in fact, we didn’t want to know.)

What is orange wine if it’s not from oranges?

The new rosé? Orange wine is having a moment. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Orange, some say, is the new rosé, occupying the demilitarised zone between red and white. The colour crosses a spectrum – from pale apricot to enraged Trump, all the way to amber – but what’s really different about orange wine is the way it’s made. Traditionally, red wines are made from the juice of red grapes plus grape skins. Whites are made without skins.

Orange wines are made from white grapes but get the red-wine treatment – the juice is macerated with the skins, a technique dating back 8000 years to wine’s birthplace, Georgia. The resulting texture, tannin and colour means these “skin-contact” wines have more in common with reds than whites; styles vary from fruity, floral or earthy to sour and funky.

What is natural wine and why are people so excited about it?

Natural winemaking is a broad church in which wines are generally (purists say must be) made from grapes grown without commercial chemicals. Processing takes place with minimal “intervention” – so, for example, the wine may not be filtered to remove cloudiness. Additives, such as sulphur dioxide – used for centuries to keep wine tasting fresh – are shunned or kept to a minimum. It’s a departure from the kind of large-scale industrial winemaking that values hygiene and consistency over quirks and imperfections.

As with conventional wines, quality varies hugely. There’s no regulation of what’s called natural, so if you’re going that way to avoid chemicals, look for certified organic or biodynamic wines – they’re more likely to be what you’re paying for. When made by winemakers of skill and integrity, the best natural wines celebrate quality, individuality and character – hallmarks of all great wines, regardless of whether they’re pitched as natural.

What’s better – Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio?

The wine world can be daunting. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Same grape, different name – one name is French, the other Italian, with “gris” and “grigio” both meaning “grey”. In Europe the French approach to making gris produces a highly perfumed wine with plenty of mouthfeel; grigio from Italy is often (not always) a crisper, lighter wine. “Better” is in the eye of the beholder – good news is they’re all food-friendly styles. So in short, no difference in the grape, just the name.

Why might some wines contain traces of eggs, fish or milk?

Egg whites with fish bladders and milk: a dish that might make guests at a Game of Thrones banquet actually welcome the post-dinner massacre. Yes, it’s medieval stuff – each of these has been used for centuries to “fine” wine. Fining is a process in which one or more of these proteins is dropped into unfinished wine to bind with components that taste bitter, astringent, or are likely to make the wine hazy. They are then removed. Traces, as the label states, may remain.
If any of the above have been used you’ll find them listed on the label as allergens. The fish bladder derivative also goes by the name isinglass and is rarely used in Australia but egg whites and milk products are still common.

How long will a wine keep after it’s been opened?

Like fish and houseguests, opened wine smells less appealing after three days. Aim to finish an open bottle over no more than two nights. As a rule of thumb, red wines stay in condition for longer than whites (some robust reds taste better on day two). Exposure to air changes the aroma and flavour of opened wine, so reseal a bottle you’re not planning to finish in one go.

A bottle that’s mostly full will last better than one with only a glass or two left. It’s about the proportion of air to wine – more air in the bottle means faster deterioration. Store an opened bottle upright, not on its side. If you keep a clean, empty half-bottle handy, decant unfinished wine into that – it will stay fresher than in a full-size bottle. Otherwise, start scouting wine-saving devices.

(This last item may not reflect editorial opinion, surely once the bottle is opened it deserves to be finished in one sitting. The person I live with frequently draws my attention to the week that passes between a tasting and when the committee downs the tasting leftovers, but members may not understand the deterioration that has occurred during that time and the generous effort made by committee members to get rid of these leftovers on their behalf.)

Related news

NZ wine exports hit record high driven by strong US sales

The beer and wine aisle of a 365 by Whole Foods Market grocery store is pictured ahead of its opening day in Los Angeles. New Zealand sauvignon blanc has found a ready market in the US.
The beer and wine aisle of a 365 by Whole Foods Market grocery store is pictured ahead of its opening day in Los Angeles. New Zealand sauvignon blanc has found a ready market in the US.

New Zealand’s wine export values continue to rise thanks to strong United States demand, reaching $1.66 billion for the year, up 6 per cent on the year before.

While the percentage increase is lower than the average yearly growth of 17 per cent for the last 20 years, the industry was still on track to reach $2b worth of exports by 2020, chairman of New Zealand Winegrowers Steve Green said.

The latest NZ Winegrowers annual report shows to the end of June this year, the US market is worth $517 million, up 12 per cent. New Zealand wine became the third most valuable wine import into the US, behind only France and Italy.

NZ wine, a 2017 snapshot.
NZ wine, a 2017 snapshot.

Green forecast next year’s export volumes would be “more muted” because of the smaller harvest of 396,000 tonnes, down 9 per cent on 2016, but wineries were confident quality would remain high.

While the US provided the best returns, more litres of wine (74 million) were exported to the United Kingdom for a much smaller return of $389m. Traditionally more bulk wine has been sent into the UK market. Behind the US and the UK came Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and China.

Former US ambassador to New Zealand Mark Gilbert, along with many of his countrymen, has a nose for a good wine. He attended a tasting of New Zealand and French pinot noir last year.
Former US ambassador to New Zealand Mark Gilbert, along with many of his countrymen, has a nose for a good wine. He attended a tasting of New Zealand and French pinot noir last year.

The most exported variety was sauvignon blanc, followed by pinot noir and chardonnay.

The recently passed Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act would offer improved protection of New Zealand’s regional identities. The industry had also launched the sustainable winegrowing New Zealand continuous improvement extension programme to enhance the reputation of wines.

Of a total growing area of 37,129 hectares, sauvignon dominates at 22,085 ha, an increase of 685 ha from the year before. The second most popular variety was pinot noir, with 5653 ha, followed by chardonnay at 3203 ha and pinot gris (2469 ha).

Marlborough is overwhelmingly the largest region with 25,135 ha planted in vines, followed by Hawke’s Bay (4694 ha), Central Otago (1896 ha) and Canterbury/Waipara (1425 ha).

The number of wineries was 677; they reached a peak of 703 in 2012.

New Zealanders drank 40 million litres of imported wine during the past year, most of it Australian (29m litres), with the next two most popular French and Chilean.

The November Kaikoura earthquake damaged an estimated 20 per cent of Marlborough’s tank capacity, but by harvest time all of the lost capacity had been restored or replaced.

Green said the industry consulted with members on possible changes to export tasting requirements, with responses suggesting a rethink of export requirements was needed.

“We continue to believe more needs to be done in our export legislation to ensure that the same standards apply to every bottle of New Zealand wine, no matter where it is bottled,” Green said.

NZ Winegrowers were concerned at the Ministry for Primary Industries’ plan to take part of New Zealand Winegrowers’ wine export certification service contract in-house.

“We fought hard to retain the status quo, which has served our members well, and are disappointed with the level of industry consultation in MPI’s decision making process. If the service changes, we will be seeking guarantees from the government that the current speedy issuance of export eligibility statements will be protected, at no additional cost to members,” Green said.

In June the New Zealand Grape Growers Council and the Wine Institute of New Zealand finished as entities, replaced by a unified New Zealand Winegrowers.

New Zealand is now the only major wine producing nation with a single industry body, representing and advocating for the interests of its entire grape and wine industry.

The industry and the Government are working through a Primary Growth Partnership on research into lighter wine production and marketing. Last year retail sales reached $33.5m. The programme runs through to 2021, by which time $16.97m would have been spent on the partnership.

Organic wine production continues to flourish with more than 60 New Zealand wineries now making fully certified organic wines, and more still in the organic conversion process.

Wine is New Zealand’s fifth largest goods export.

Related news

French winemakers furious at Internet administrators

NZ Herald | 24 June 2014

Winemakers say the decision to open up access to .wine and .vin domain names will make it easier for unethical wine sellers to deceive customers about the origin of their goods. Photo / Thinkstock

Just one month after Mother Nature defeated Jeff Bezos in a battle for the .amazon domain name, a new conflict is fermenting in these Internet suffixes. This time around, the hotly contested properties are .vin and .wine, and the broad-based attack is being led by a very rankled France.

Winemakers in Europe, Australia and California are protesting a decision by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to move forward with the introduction of .vin and .wine as so-called top-level domains – the familiar appendixes to Web addresses like .com and .edu.

The problem, as fine winemakers see it, is that opening up access to .wine and .vin will make it easier for unethical wine sellers to deceive customers about the origin and quality of their goods.

Geography is a big deal when it comes to winemaking and the European Union has strict rules that govern the use of “geographical indications” in marketing and labeling.

The best-known example of this is how in the EU and many other countries the word champagne can only be applied to bubbly beverages from the Champagne region of France. Made anywhere else in the world, it’s simply called sparkling wine.

The concern France shares over domain names with other winemakers around the world is that a company could register a Web address like champagne.wine but not sell the authentic product. “Internet users could indeed be deceived into believing that they are buying a genuine product with specific qualities and characteristics, when they are in fact getting an imitation,” Linda Reiff, president of the Napa Valley Vintners, wrote in a letter to ICANN that was cited by the Wall Street Journal.

France has gone so far in the debate over .wine and .vin as to demand an overhaul of how ICANN is structured and run. The French have said that proceeding with the domain names could “imperil” talks on a trans-Atlantic trade deal between the EU and the US.

– Slate

 

Related news

Looking Forward: Mid Year Dinner

La Cloche is a French café and delicatessen that opened in the Kaiwharawhara industrial area in May 2006, and has known huge success since then. Their team is dedicated to bring to customers a true French experience.

Your committee have organized a three course Menu at a price of $55.00 per person. This includes the hireage of the whole restaurant, corkage and coffee. The club will provide bubbles at the beginning of the meal.

We have agreed to a pre-ordering system and the order form provided to members will include the pre-ordering requirement. Dinner will start at 7pm and we will circulate the menu with the order form in the next newsletter.

Anne will organise seating and the orders will be put on each table at the dinner to remind us what we ordered.

If you wish to be in a group please contact Anne, to arrange things.