French wine laws are so strict that certain grape varieties are allowed to be grown in specific regions only. For example, Sauvignon Blanc is grown in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley but it’s not allowed in other wine growing regions. In Bordeaux, only six red grape varieties and three white ones can be planted. The region’s famous blends contain only these combinations. This has been the case since 1935. But the times, they are a changin’, possibly.
There is a small trend among Bordeaux wine makers to mix things up a bit. Some “rebel” winemakers have started adding a bit of Syrah, the prominent grape of northern Rhone to their blends. Say it aint’ so?! The bold act has some referring to this new blend creation as a Super Bordeaux, reminiscent of a trend started in the early 1970s by Italian winemakers.
The Rise of the Super Tuscan
Italy also had rigid rules governing which wines could be blended in certain regions. The Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) rule-making authorities prohibited the use of non-native or international varieties. Tired of the restrictions, as well as the resulting “lesser quality wine” that was often produced, a few bold winemakers starting breaking rank. They began adding non-Italian grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and other international varieties to their Sangiovese. Of course, there was outrage.
Since these agitator winemakers were forbidden from labeling their new-style blends as Sangiovese due to the DOC rules, they had to create another name. The settled on Super Tuscan, which was a nod to the region but not the grape. However, these renegade winemakers got the last laugh. The wines became huge successes, scoring high marks with wine critics and accolades among the experts. As a result, the wines commanded lofty prices on the international markets.
In the end, the DOC relaxed and revised some the rules. Today, the use of international grape varieties is common practice in Italy.
The Rise of the Super Bordeaux
Will the rise of the Super Bordeaux become the latest trend out of Europe? Undeterred by longstanding blending rules, some Bordeaux producers are branching out by adding Syrah. According to Roger Morris of Palate Press, two top Bordeaux chateaux have already ventured where no Bordelais has dared to go. But will others follow?
Rhone producers stand to benefit if this truly becomes a trend. How amazing would it be to have a blend from some of the great Syrahs vineyards of northern Rhone? Cab Sauvingnon, Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Syrah in one bottle? Sounds like my kind of party.
Personally, I’m all for it if it leads to even greater tasting, more structured and longer-lived wines. Do you welcome a change in the ancient blends of Bordeaux or do you think it’s a quickly passing phase? Your comments are welcome.
Tags: #winewednesday, Bordeaux, French Wine, Super Bordeaux