Vine varieties: Choice of variety

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Vine-growers are rarely free to choose which vine variety to plant in a given vineyard. They may have acquired a planted vineyard in full production and cannot afford the crop loss involved in changing variety either by grubbing up established vines or by field grafting a new variety onto the trunk and root system of the old one. Different varieties need different conditions of soil and climate. Cabernet Sauvignon simply will not ripen regularly in cool regions, for example.

In France, and much of the eu, the varieties permitted may be regulated. Some of these restrictions can be traced back to the Middle Ages (see pinot noir), but formalization took place from 1935 with the appellation contrôlée (AOC) laws which authorize only specified varieties for each appellation, distinguishing between principal and secondary varieties (see Appendix 1 for full details). Similarly, some varieties were completely banned (although it required more than 30 years for this law to have its effect). For the production of more basic vin de table, l’Institut des Vins de Consommation Courante (IVCC, the precursor of ONIVIT) decreed in 1953 for each viticultural region three classifications of varieties: recommended, authorized, and tolerated until eventual removal. These laws have subsequently been overtaken by EU laws with the similar intent of allowing only specified varieties. For discussion of these restrictions, see vine varieties, effect on wine.