French appellations no longer in full agreement over disease-resistant grape varieties

Friday March 08 2019 by Vitisphere

“I am not living in the past, I represent modernity”, claims Xavier Planty.“I am not living in the past, I represent modernity”, claims Xavier Planty.

So far, the only French debate about grape varieties with resistance to fungal diseases has been limited to widespread impatience over them not yet being rolled out. But that was before Bordeaux’s Xavier Planty signed a vitriolic missive, published in the French national newspaper Le Monde: “Grape varieties that are resistant to mildew? It’s an idea that may seem good, but jeopardises our wine growing heritage”.

The co-owner of Château Guiraud – the 1855-classified, organically certified Premier Grand Cru – and chairman of the Sauternes appellation area, Planty explained to Vitisphere that “the basis of appellations of origin is the suitability of a site and a native grape variety that has been selected locally down through the ages. In Bordeaux, our grape varieties come from the Pyrenean foothills and the Loire... But it is continuity through the ages that forms the basis of the AOC. Disease-resistant varieties come from nowhere. If we switch to them, the brand is dead”.

Xavier Planty is opposed to appellations opening up to non-Vitis Vinifera varieties (such as disease-resistant hybrids), which is exactly what France’s national federation of AOC wine producers has applied for, as part of the next Common Agricultural Policy. “Saying goodbye to Cabernet-Sauvignon and Merlot in Bordeaux has never been put in these terms. There was no in-depth debate”, he said.

Planty believes that showing respect for the ethos of appellations should be a prerequisite for research and development of alternatives. He claims that research programmes should focus on "reverting to the vine’s overall equilibrium, and a holistic view of farming. The first way of reducing inputs is to work on the issue of soils. What do we know about mycorrhization?

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