The French fell for the deep colour and high yields of Alicante Bouschet in the late 19th century when they were replanting their vineyards after phylloxera hit.
Bred in the Hérault, southern France, by Henri Bouschet in 1865 by crossing Grenache with Petit Bouschet (itself an Aramon Noir x Teinturier cross), it is one of the few grapes to have red-coloured flesh – the so-called teinturier varieties. Plantings have been in decline in France since the 1980s, but there are still more than 5,000 hectares planted. Most of it remains anonymous in southern French blends, but a few producers such as Domaine de Viranel are showing the potential of old bush vines.
Although it has found pockets of success in countries as far apart as Spain and Uruguay, it seems to flourish and be accorded greatest respect in southern Portugal’s Alentejo region, where it has been planted since before the 1950s, thanks to John Reynolds. His family property Mouchão is still a showcase for the variety’s rich, dark fruit, dense but smooth tannins, and slightly wild, herbal, savoury character (here blended with a little Trincadeira). Try also Mariona (Spain), Esporão and Terra d’Alter (Portugal), Pizzato (Uruguay) and Domaine de Viranel (France).
Data source: Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson MW, Julia Harding MW and José Vouillamoz; www.winegrapes.org
Translated by Sylvia Wu / 吴嘉溦
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