Century Club Varietals: Bourboulenc
This week’s unique grape varietal even took me out of my comfort zone. Recently I have begun to enjoy more and more Rhone Valley white blends. Each time I taste one, I ask about the blend and get the same standard answer “Marsanne, Rousanne, and a little bit of some of Rhone Valley grapes.” But what other grapes I wondered? We recently received a new Rhone white blend and I decided to dig a little deeper. What I found was that it was a blend of not only Marsanne and Rousanne, but also Viognier and Bourboulenc? I had to do some research on this new, unique grape.
Click here to listen to how the French pronounce it!
Although found in the south of France, it is thought that Bourboulenc could be of Greek origin. It has been growing for centuries in the Rhone Valley, but the production of the grape dropped by about 50% in the 1970’s and then was reduced again by the same amount in the late 1980’s. One area that has increased their production of Bourboulenc is the Languedoc which is southeast of the Rhone.
The grape thrives in southern areas with intense sun exposure and heat. Highly resistant to drought, the vine achieves a high degree of ripeness and corresponding alcohol in the warmer climates.
France: Langeudoc, southern Rhone Valley especially Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Bourboulenc can be used as a blending grape in both the white and rosé wines of the southern Rhône Valley. However, the total production of this grape constitutes less than ten percent of total production and only two to three percent of production of white grapes. Bourboulenc is mainly blended with Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Rousanne, and Marsanne. It can also play a minor role in red Châteauneuf-du-Pape blends.
Well-made Bourboulenc wine can have good acidity level, body, penetrating character, citrus aromas and a hint of smoke, but if the grapes are picked too soon the wines have a thin, neutral taste.