By Justin Taylor
The viticultural landscape was drastically shifted during the mid 1800’s in France when eager growers planted vines from North America in French soils for the first time. None of the hopeful vineyard owners were aware that a small aphid-like bug was riding along on the roots of these transplant vines, soon to cripple the acreage of vines in Europe. At its peak of economic impact, French wine production was reduced by ⅔ of the potential.
Thankfully a French physician and viticulturist named Albert Seibel realized that crossing European species with American grape species, produced vines resistant to the effect of the insect. Some of the most famous of his estimated 16,000 different creations were Aurore, Chancellor, Chelois, and De Chaunac. All of his work originated from four varietals and mixing of the gene pool on numerous occasions produced the volume of his work.
The late 1800’s and early 1900’s saw a collection of botanists, viticulturists, and enologists who utilized several of the Seibel varietals and continued to experiment with constructive ends. The Seyve family, father and two sons, used the stock of Seibel varieties to produce notable varietals like Chambourcin and Seyval Blanc. In the hands of a knowledgeable grower and wine producer, these are capable of creating wines of excellent quality.
Even as many of these hybrids produced fruit used in wine production that brought France back from the brink of drying up, they also contributed to the eventual “wine lake” of the 1950’s. Quality control regulations had been put in place, decreasing the number of hybrids planted and increasing the placement of traditional varietals such as Chardonnay and Merlot. Given the opportunity, try a French-American hybrid at your next tasting. You never know when a new favorite might strike you!
The answer to the wine and vine trivia from July has everything to do with temperature and bottle position. Keep bottles cool, between 50-55F, and laying on their side in a dark place. Wine and vine trivia for next issue: What role does glassware play in your wine drinking experience?
Justin Taylor is Winemaker at Parker-Binns Vineyard and Winery, Mill Spring, NC.