Artaban, Floréal, Vidoc and Voltis – they sound like the stars of the latest Netflix series, but in actual fact, they are the names given to grape varieties commonly referred to as resistant or tolerant, suited to new weather conditions or new French vine varieties. Whatever. They were created in the 19th century to withstand vine diseases. What is their history, and what is their future? Here is the lowdown on the first four French resistant vine varieties.
- In the beginning
- In the 21st century
- Languedoc, the French pioneer
- The 4 authorised French grape varieties
- How about the future?
In the beginning
OsCar, the National Observatory for the Deployment of Resistant Grape Varieties, created by INRA (National Institute for Agronomic Research) and IFV (French Institute of Vine and Wine), offers some historical context: “The resistance of vines to diseases and pests became a topic of research in the mid-19th century, when devastating diseases – powdery mildew, downy mildew, black rot and phylloxera – were introduced into Europe from North America. American vines (V. rupestris, V. lincecumi, V. berlandieri, etc.) and Europe’s Vitis vinifera – the vast majority of which were prone to disease – were then crossed to produce new varieties called direct producers, which offered resistance to powdery and downy mildew and phylloxera. From the outset, resistant grape varieties were therefore created to withstand diseases. They are not GMOs, but crosses between vines.
In the 21st century
Over the last ten years, the pace of research in France has quickened. Why? To respond to the challenges of global warming. The aim is to reduce the use of plant protection products. In other words, when pressure from powdery mildew and/or downy mildew is high, Artaban, Floréal, Vidoc and Voltis offer natural resistance. There are fewer or even no sprays depending on how strong the onset of disease is.
Languedoc, the French pioneer
It all began at France’s first co-operative winery in Maraussan. 55 vines of 4 resistant varieties, two white and two red, were planted on an experimental plot by Vignobles Foncalieu. That was in 2007 and it involved the resistant varieties created by the late Alain Bouquet, then research director at INRA. At the moment, because these French varieties are not registered in the official catalogue, they have no name and cannot (to date) be officially planted.
The 4 authorised French grape varieties
Since 2019, Artaban, Floréal, Vidoc and Voltis, from the Resdur1/INRA programme, have been officially and permanently authorised to be included in specifications for a number of PGIs – Gard, Cévennes, Coteaux du Pont du Gard, Pays d’Oc, Var, Alpes-Maritimes, Atlantique and Val de Loire.
In 2020, more PGIs – Côtes Catalanes, Vaucluse, Collines Rhodaniennes, Ardèche, Drôme, Coteaux des Baronnies and Périgord – joined them, followed in 2021 by Mediterranée and Bouches-du-Rhône. Other PGIs are in the pipeline – Charentais, Aude and Hérault.
But how about appellations? As vitisphere.com explains: “Now officially affiliated with the traditional European cultivars, the new Artaban, Floréal, Vidoc and Voltis varieties could enter appellation vineyards, access to which was previously unthinkable”.
How about the future?
The future will depend on response from the marketplace, aka the consumers. The aromatic profiles of these grape varieties are different and new. In 2019, Vignobles Foncalieu became the first to market a single varietal resistant cultivar in France – NUVOTE. Blended from Artaban and Vidoc, this easy-drinking wine has three other advantages: it is organic, has no added sulphites and has low alcohol content. For the 2021 vintage, 15,000 bottles will be released for sale. The feedback from customers is positive both in terms of flavour and the positive message conveyed by the bottle. It’s a good start. Single varietal wines made from these four French grape varieties are still few and far between and will likely feature more commonly in blends with other international varieties. Exponential demand for resistant grape varieties adapted to new weather patterns should gradually bring Artaban, Floréal, Vidoc and Voltis into the foreground. Unless that is, their Swiss counterparts like Cabernet blanc, Italy’s Soleris or even Germany’s Souvignier Gris, to name a few, should steal a march over them and win the hearts of producers and consumers.