Alicante-Bouschet


Alicante Bouschet No matter what color their skins, the great majority of wine grapes have clear juice. Very few have red colored juice; the French call these types Teinturier - literally "dyers." One of the most famous and widely-planted is a wine grape cross, Alicante-Bouschet, created by French father and son vine breeders. Until the 1960's, Aramon was the most widely planted grape in France. Growers liked it for two reasons. Foremost is its high productivity, over 20 tons per acre in fertile soils. Second, it is one of the few Vinifera varieties with natural resistance to powdery mildew. The wine produced from this grape, however, is extremely light in color, flavor, and alcohol, and it always requires blending to boost these factors. In 1824, Louis Bouschet crossed Aramon with an ancient red-juiced Vinifera variety, Teinturier due Cher, naming the result Petit-Bouschet. In 1865, Louis’ son Henri continued on his father’s path, crossing Petit-Bouschet with Grenache to create Alicante-Bouschet. Alicante-Bouschet is a very productive grape that can bear crops as large as 12 tons per acre and must be controlled from its tendency to over crop. In addition to red flesh and juice, it has thick and tough skin. The grape’s acidity can be problematic, too high in cooler regions and too low in warmer ones. These qualities led to high popularity during prohibition, since the fruit shipped well and Alicante’s intense color could stand dilution and extension with water and sugar to make more than double the normal wine gallonage per ton of grapes. Plantings in California reach nearly 30,000 acres by the 1940's but have since declined to less than 5,000 acres. Primarily used as a blending grape where color and tannin are needed, only a very few California wineries have offered Alicante-Bouschet as a varietal, and have enjoyed success from high tasting scores. One winery, Angelo Papagni of Madeira, had the unique distinction of successfully producing a string of award-winning and long-lived varietal wines from Alicante-Bouschet in the 1970's. Alicante-Bouschet wines are of a blackish purple hue, moderately full-bodied with balanced acidity, moderate oak and tannic with hints of ripe black fruits; complex and quite attractive aromatically. Wines made from the Alicante-Bouschet grape recall the character of a fine northern Rhone.

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