How ironic that just at a time when interest in in forgotten and rare grape varieties is growing there is a threat to France’s unique collection of over 7000 grape varieties at the Domaine de Vassal at Marseillan!
Although this revival of interest in rare grapes may not have hit the mainstream: my local Sainsbury’s supermarket is yet to offer special deals on Gwass from Switzerland’s Valais or Gellewza, a native Maltese red variety, there is certainly increased awareness and fascination amongst wine lovers.
Over the past year I have been fortunate to have been present at four fascinating tastings of little known grape varieties. All of them have involved José Vouillamoz, one of the co-authors of the remarkable Wine Grapes, which has hoovered up all the major wine book prizes this year. Wine Grapes both reflects the desire to be aware of the incredible variety of wine grapes and well as driving this interest.
Here is an account written by Mariëlla Beukers of a small intimate tasting held during this year’s Digital Wine Communicators Conference in Logroño (Rioja). We tasted wines from Turkey plus a few others from Austria, Malta and Switzerland. http://www.wijnkronieken.nl/exploring-flavour-wine-mosaic-full-native-varieties/#more-6326
I covered obscure grape varieties in part in my post a couple of weeks ago: A la recherche des cépages et races perdus (http://les5duvin.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/a-la-recherche-des-cepages-et-races-perdues/). I’m making a rapid return because of the threat to the collection at the Domaine de Vassal.
Here is a video explaining the collection at the Domaine de Vassal and the team’s work as well as the threat to the collection.
The great advantage of the Domaine de Vassal is that the vines are planted on sand, which is phylloxera free because the little bastards can’t construct tunnels in the sand as they just collapse. This means that the vines can be on their original rootstocks and not grafted. If the collection were to be moved then it is very likely that the vines would have to be grafted onto American rootstock, which could well change their innate character so probably less valuable for researchers.
The organisers of the petition, which was launched by Bruno Chevallet on 12th November, aim to garner 5000 signatures by Friday 29th November. To date 2976* have signed, so there is still a way to go. Please add your signature if you haven’t already signed the petition and then, even better, get your friends and contacts to sign as well.
The petition has attracted many of the great of the good of the wine world and by no means limited to France, although naturally the majority of the signatures come from here. Wine lovers from around the world, however, have recognized the importance of protecting this priceless heritage of 7000 grape varieties and have given their support. Here is a list of the wine world’s great and good who have shown their support:
Jancis Robinson MW, José Vouillamoz, Randall Grahm, Jean-Michel Deiss, François Mauss, Pierre Amadieu, Bruno Chevallet, Michel Grisard, Fabien Lainé, André Deyrieux, André Dominé, Jamie Goode, Luiz Alberto, Jane Anson, Louise Hurren, Wink Lorch, Brett Jones, Antoine Kreydenweiss, Ken Payton, André Ribeirinho, Robert Plageoles, Julien Brocard, Sylvie Augereau, Thierry Germain, Catherine Breton, Eddy Oosterlinck, Wilfrid Rousse, Olivier Jullien, Pascal Potaire, Stéphane Mureau, Lydia Bourguignon, Michel Bras, Benoit Tarlant, Vincent Carême, Xavier Weisskopf, Bertrand Jousset, Catherine Simon, Antoine Gerbelle, Élian da Ros, Gérard Marula, Agnès Mosse, Paul Strang, Becky Wasserman-Hone, Chantal Lecouty, Alice Feiring, Lincoln Siliakus, Olivier Grosjean Thierry Puzelat, Antoine Foucault, Eric Nicolas, François Pinon, Olivier Bompas, Olivier Humbrecht, Luc de Conti, Jeremy Seysses, Bernard Baudry, Philippe Gourdon, Philippe Faure-brac, Stephanie Caslot, Emmanuel Caslot, Michel Chapoutier, Emmanuel Cazes, Eric Narioo, Xavier Amirault, Pascal Joulin, Yves Girardin, Bertrand Galbrun, Sylvain Fadat, Marcel Orford-Williams, Alexandre Monmousseau, François Plouzeau, Nathalie Prieur, Annie Sauvat, Philippe Stuyck, Roger Kolbu, Robert McIntosh, Emmanuel Ogereau, Charles Philipponnat, Jean Clavel, Elisabetta Tosi, Lily Dimitriou, David Cobbold, Jeffrey Davies, Irene de Vette, Jean Abeille, Marc kreydenweiss, Stefano Raimondi, Dominique Lafon, Peter Handzus, Philippe et Catherine Delesvaux, Ryan O’Connell, Pierre Pichot, Elisabeth Seifert, Tania Pithon, Luciana Braz, Elizabeth Gabay, Xavier Planty, Denis Gambier, Simon Woolf, Frédéric Brunier, Louis Villard, Patricia Boyer Domergue, Edouard Pisani-Ferry, Anne Graindorge, Nicolas de Rouyn, Patrick Baudouin, Vasco Magalhães, Heather Dougherty, Lizzie Shell, Jo Landron, Jacques Sire, Steven Defour, Ilkka Sirén, Cathy Henton, Roger Voss, Giampiero Nadali, Finkus Bripp, Andrew Barrow, Ted Lelekas, Mick Rock, Isabelle Legeron, Pieter Rosenthal, Leon Stolarski, Tom Perry, Benoît Fouassier, Chris Kissack, David Rowe, Ewan Murray, Elisabeth Gstarz, Ralf Kaiser, Margaret Rand, Gavin Quinney, Boris Maskow, Steve De Long, Hervé Lalau, Michel Smith and Anthony Rose.
* Update 26th November: Now 3118 signatures, so just under 1900 to get in the next three days!