Grape dictionary: Alicante Bouschet

Alicante Bouschet
Grape (Vitis)
Color of berry skin Noir
Species Vitis vinifera
Also called Alicante Henri Bouschet, Garnacha Tintorera
Origin France
Notable regions California
Hazards Downy mildew

Alicante Bouschet or Alicante Henri Bouschet is a wine grape variety that has been widely cultivated since 1866. It is a cross of Petit Bouschet (itself a cross of the very old variety Teinturier du Cher and Aramon) and Grenache. Alicante is a teinturier, a grape with red flesh. It is one of the few teinturier grapes that belong to the Vitis vinifera species. Its deep color makes it useful for blending with light red wine. It was planted heavily during Prohibition in California for export to the East Coast. Its thick skin made it resistant to rot during the transportation process. The intense red color was also helpful for stretching the wine during prohibition, as it could be diluted without detracting from the appearance. At the turn of the 21st century, Alicante Bouschet was the 12th most planted red wine grape in France with sizable plantings in the Languedoc, Provence and Cognac regions.

History and breeding

The grape was first cultivated in France in 1866 by Henri Bouschet as a cross of Petit Bouschet and Grenache. The Petit Bouschet grape was created by his father Louis Bouschet. The result was to produce a grape with deep color grape of higher quality than the Teinturier du Cher. Several varieties of Alicante Bouschet were produced of varying quality. The grapes high yields and easy maintenance encouraged its popularity among French wine growers, especially in the years following the Phylloxera epidemic. By the end of the 19th century there were Alicante Bouschet plantings in Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Loire Valley.

The grape was widely popular in the United States during the years of Prohibition. Grape growers in California’s Central Valley found that the grape’s pulp was so fleshy and juicy that fermentable juice could be retrieved even after the third pressing. In contrasts, wines made grapes like Chardonnay and Merlot typically only include the juice from the free run (before pressing) and first or second pressing. The grape’s thick skin also meant that it could survive the long railway transportation from California to New York‘s Pennsylvania Station which had auction rooms where the grapes were sold. In 1928, one single auction lot of 225 carloads of grapes were purchased by a single buyer. The amount of grapes was enough to make more than 2 million gallons of wine.

Wine regions

In Portugal‘s Alentejo region, Alicante Bouschet is often made into a varietal wine.

In France, the grape was historically a blending partner with Aramon but in recent times has been made more into its own varietal. However, planting of new vines has steadily declined. In some areas of France the grape is now extinct. The grape is still being actively grown in Portugal‘s Alentejo region where it prized for its good color, fruitiness and tannin levels. In Chile the grape is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and to make concentrated varietal wines. In California the grape was popular among home winemakers during Prohibition and still grown today in Napa and Sonoma counties. Other areas with notable Alicante Bouschet plantings include Algeria, Israel and parts of central and southern Italy. It’s an important grape variety in southeastern Spain, under the local name garnacha tintorera, as it occupies some 3,000 hectares, mostly in the Almansa, Manchuela and Jumilla appellations.

Viticulture and wine

The grape is known for its deep dark color, more than 15 times the color of Aramon and twice the darkness of the Grand Noir de la Calmette. The grape produces high yields, an average of 80 hl/ha. It buds and ripens early to produce wines often with alcohol levels around 12%. The wines produced by the grape alone typically aren’t of the highest quality and tend to be flabby, lacking character and complexity. The grape vine is prone to grape diseases like anthracnose and downy mildew. The grape leaves of the vine are unique in that they have patches of purple coloring.

Synonyms

Alicante Bouschet is also known under the synonyms Alicant de Pays, Alicante, Alicante Bouchet, Alicante Bouschet 2, Alicante Extra Fertile, Alicante Femminello, Alicante H. Boushet, Alicante Henri Bouschet, Alicante Nero, Alicante Noir, Alicante Tinto, Alicantina, Alikant Buse, Alikant Buse Bojadiser, Alikant Bushe, Alikant Bushe Ekstrafertil, Alikant Bushe Nr. 2, Alikant Genri Bushe, Alikante Henri Bouschet, Aragonais, Aragones, Arrenaou, Baga, Bakir Uezuemue, Barvarica, Blasco, Bojadiserka, Carignan Jaune, Cupper Grape, Dalmatinka, Garnacha, Garnacha Tintorera, Lhadoner, Moraton, Mouraton, Murviedro, Negral, Pe de Perdiz, Pe de Pombo, Petit Bouschet, Redondal, Rivesaltes, Rivos Altos, Roussillon, Rouvaillard, Sumo Tinto, Tinta Fina, Tinta Francesa, Tinto, Tinto Nero, Tinto Velasco, Tintorera, Tintorera de Liria, Tintorera de Longares, Tinturao, and Uva di Spagna.

Crosses

Alibernet – crossing of Alicante Bouschet x Cabernet Sauvignon was bred in 1950 in the Ukrainian Scientific Research Institute for Wine and Vines in Odessa. It is planted in Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Source: Wikipedia

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