Monday, January 20, 2014

Know Your Oregon Grapes: Baco Noir

Baco Noir is a French-American hybrid is a hybrid red wine grape variety produced from a cross of Vitis vinifera var. Folle blanche, a French wine grape, and an unknown variety of Vitis riparia indigenous to North America.
Baco Noir’s origins go back to 1894 when French grape breeder François Baco crossed Folle Blanche with an unknown member of the New World’s Vitis Riparia family. The intention was to create phylloxera-resistant vines that retained their French character. At one time Baco Noir was grown in Burgundy and the Loire, but it was gradually ushered out of the Old World and has since become one of North America’s more successful hybrids.

Not highly regarded among most Oregon wine makers I have spoken to but Girardet Winery in the Umpqua Valley has been pretty consistently good at producing a tasty deep red and rich wine. It stands up to duck and gamey meats but it also is one of my favorite for pairing with dishes made with wild rice.

In cool climates it has a light to medium body, good acidity. Baco Noir is a grower-friendly alternative to Pinot Noir. It does not express the distinctive foxy aromas and flavors of other Vitis Riparia varieties known as River Bank Grape or Frost Grape, but instead shows rich fruit tones, typified by blueberry and plum. In hotter climates such as the Umpqua Valley the wine is richer and more intense.
Another winery that makes a solid Baco Noir is Chateau Lorane, where Linda and I were married. 100 people went through a LOT of Baco Noir
Here is a good story about Baco written by Matt Kramer for the Oregonian:
As some readers have noticed, this column now appears every other week. But the wines --and wine values --keep coming. So let's dive into the deals with no further ado.
Baco Noir "Southern Oregon" 2007, Girardet Wine Cellars: For decades one of Oregon's consistently best red wines has not been its vaunted pinot noir, but rather, the unsung French hybrid called baco noir. Never heard of baco noir? You're in good company, as most folks haven't, either --wine geeks included.
The short story is that in the 1880s the American root louse called phylloxera devastated all of Europe's vineyards. The native European grape vine, Vitis vinifera, had no inborn resistance to this sap-sucking louse --which slowly killed the vines. American grapevines, however, did have an inborn resistance.
Growers everywhere in Europe, nowhere more so than in France, were desperate to find or create vines that could resist phylloxera. For decades, starting in the 1880s, researchers experimented with crossing varieties of Vitis vinifera with various American grape varieties. One of these researchers was Francois Baco (1865-1947), a son of winegrowers who lived in the town of Belus, near the famous Armagnac zone in southwest France.
Although Baco's day job was a schoolteacher, his passion was grapevines. For decades he laboriously tried numerous crossings of Vitis vinifera varieties with American species. In 1902, Baco released just such a hybrid, a red grape originally called Baco 1 that today is known as baco noir. It was a cross between a local white grape known as folle blanche (the grape used for the brandies made in the Cognac and Armagnac districts) and an unknown American red variety.
Eventually, the French decided to spurn these hybrids, preferring instead to simply graft American rootstocks onto their own European varieties. But baco noir made such a tasty red wine, and was so unusually resistant to very cold winter weather, that Baco's creation now is planted in the Midwest and the East (where cold winters are a problem) as well as in the Canadian province of Ontario.

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