Grenache Blanc de France
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Grenache Blanc is a white mutation of Grenache Noir. It is a variety of Spanish origin (“Garnacha Blanca”), more precisely from the provinces of Barcelona and Tarragona. During the Middle Ages, the domination of Aragon and the expansion of this kingdom towards the southwestern littoral plain, the region between Avignon, Aix and Marseille, and Sardinia led the Grenache variety to migrate to the French shores of the Mediterranean, where it has become the great benchmark variety for red wines.
Wines made with Grenache Blanc are essentially characterized by aromas of fennel, dill, melon and white nectarine. Best enjoyed young due to their tendency to oxidize, these wines cannot be kept for very long in the cellar.
Grenache Blanc has a high potential for accumulating sugar. Though it is used to make natural sweet wines, Grenache Blanc can be also be used to make interesting, warm, dry whites with a long finish; they are hearty and full-bodied, but sometimes lack a bit of acidity. This flaw can be corrected by limiting yield, which is easily done given the frequent drought-like conditions on France’s Mediterranean coast.
Grenache Blanc is a Mediterranean variety and in France is found exclusively on the Mediterranean coast, from the southwestern littoral to the area between Avignon, Aix and Marseille, as well as in Corsica. Outside of the Mediterranean climate, it is unable to ripen. After dropping sharply just after the year 2000, Grenache Blanc production is once again slightly increasing.
Grenache buds relatively early, just 4 days after Chasselas, but reaches ripeness much later after the benchmark variety. Grenache Blanc is a late ripener, 3½ weeks after Chasselas, making it a Period II variety.
Grenache Blanc, well known for the power of its jagged stocks, is a highly vigorous, upright-growing variety that resists well against the violent winds of France's Mediterranean coast, the Mistral and the Tramontane. It should be pruned short, often head-pruned or cordon-pruned. Grenache Blanc gives its best results at low yields, which is often the case in Mediterranean areas, where the dryness and poor soils naturally curb productivity. This variety has a very high potential for accumulating sugars, but its color drops quickly when yields increase. Its acidity is generally low. The alcohol potential of Grenache Blanc also enables it to be used for excellent natural sweet wines (vin doux naturels) as long as it is planted in high-quality terroirs and yield is perfectly controlled.
Grenache Blanc is well adapted to slightly acidic, gravelly, stony, hot soils that reflect the sunlight, giving it a long ripening period. Soils with high limestone content and low pH suit this variety less.
This is a very late ripening variety, making it suitable only for strictly Mediterranean areas, where sunny weather and accumulated heat are guaranteed for a long period, particularly during the ripening period. When continental or oceanic influences are felt, Grenache Blanc does not ripen as well. This is why in France it is found exclusively on the Mediterranean coast, a windy area where there is little gray mold, which Grenache Blanc is highly susceptible to.
Susceptibility to diseases and pests
Grenache Blanc B is highly susceptible to gray mold, dead arm disease, mildew and bacterial diseases. However, it is rarely affected by oidium, grapevine leaf hoppers and mites.
Grenache Blanc is used only to produce wine, most notably natural sweet wines.
As for Grenache Noir, the young leaves of Grenache Blanc are a beautiful shiny green, while its vine shoots are characterized by their yellow color. Grenache Blanc's flower calyptras are entirely green whereas on Grenache Noir, they have anthocyanic pigmentation. The shoots of Grenache Blanc have green internodes and the tips of the young shoots have sparse flat-lying hairs. Its adult leaves have teeth with rectilinear sides, no anthocyanic pigmentation of the petioles and veins, and a leaf blade that is very jagged and smooth-surfaced. The underside of the blade has very few to no flat-lying and upright hairs. Grenache Blanc's clusters are large, with medium-sized berries. When ripe, they are a yellowish-green color.
Clonal selection in France
The two approved Grenache Blanc B clones are numbers 141 and 143.