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Paul B.

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A most enjoyable article for our resident hybrid crowd

by Paul B. » Mon Aug 21, 2006 1:26 am

I really liked this one from Pennsylvania's Centre Daily.com:

French-American hybrid grapes make tasty wine by Joe and Tom Chesworth.

It's good to see these varieties finally getting some positive press. I know the tide will change - it's just taking a while.
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Bob Ross

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Re: A most enjoyable article for our resident hybrid crowd

by Bob Ross » Mon Aug 21, 2006 2:43 am

Paul, I suppose any publicity is good. But what do you make of this statement from the article?

In 1934 the French government outlawed several hybrids: Isabella, Noah, Othello, Jacquez and Herbemont. We get the impression that if the market does not discourage a type of wine because of its taste, outlawing it is not in the consumer's interest and is inspired by some sinister political motive.

Do you think there is a sinister political movement at work here?

Regards, Bob
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Re: A most enjoyable article for our resident hybrid crowd

by Paul B. » Mon Aug 21, 2006 10:40 am

Bob, seeing as I didn't write or research that bit, it's hard to say what the authors had in mind exactly. I suppose it could be a bit of paranoia - it was thought in those days, quite erroneously it must be pointed out, that hybrids and labruscas produced wine that had harmful amounts of methyl alcohol in it. This has been proven false, yet some people in France did persist in saying this, in effect poisoning (pardon the pun) the grapes' reputation in the minds of many.

That being said, if you can, order a copy of Freddy Couderc's fantastic book, Les vins mythiques de la Cévenne ardéchoise et du Bas-Vivarais. In it he goes into great detail about the history of hybrids and labrusca in France, and how the good people over in the Cévenne ardéchoise and the Bas-Vivarais to this day continue to defiantly grow Concord, Noah, Clinton, etc. for their own homemade wines - wines that the author has praised in his book. I ordered my copy directly from France through Decitre; it arrived promptly and I have been very happy with it. It really is a worthwhile read.
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Re: A most enjoyable article for our resident hybrid crowd

by Bob Ross » Mon Aug 21, 2006 11:01 am

Thanks for the recommendation, Paul. My reading French is pretty poor, but I'll get a copy and give it a go. I've wondered about the French/American hybrid story ever since I got interested in wine.

What puzzles me about the entire French connnection, though, is what difference does it make what the French winemaking establishment decides. If Isabela had been approved in a particular area in France, for example, would that have made the wine more popular in the US?

Regards, Bob
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Re: A most enjoyable article for our resident hybrid crowd

by Paul B. » Mon Aug 21, 2006 11:10 am

Bob Ross wrote:What puzzles me about the entire French connnection, though, is what difference does it make what the French winemaking establishment decides. If Isabela had been approved in a particular area in France, for example, would that have made the wine more popular in the US?


It's a puzzle for sure, Bob, and I wish I knew the answer. We still see large plantings of Chambourcin in France, as well as Villard Noir, but these hybrids go into anonymous table wines and the grapes themselves never get any credit on the labels. This, to me, is the core of the recognition problem. In other words, most people outside of the growers themselves just aren't told what the grapes are that go into those wines, and it may even be that the wines themselves are not made to estate-wine standards. If this is the case, then the problems faced by viable hybrids are clearly compounded.

Varietal recognition is key. Here in Ontario, Cabernet Sauvignon is a common variety. In my opinion, it only makes a really good table wine in the best vintages; in ordinary or poor years (worse still), it makes green, vegetal wines. BUT - the name cachet is so strong, that everyone and their distant cousins want to grow it.
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Re: A most enjoyable article for our resident hybrid crowd

by Bob Ross » Mon Aug 21, 2006 12:20 pm

Generally, though, no grapes are identified on French wine labels (although that rule seems to be changing a bit). Chardonnay and Pinot Noir seemed to do just fine without being named on the labels in France.

As you say, puzzling.

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