A historic day in homage to Alain Bouquet

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A day on resistant varieties brought together many researchers this month in Gruissan, under the aegis of the three interprofessions CIVL, CIVR and Inter Oc. This was followed by the signing, on February 27, of an agreement concluded between the Occitan wine industry and INRAE, which authorizes the use in the vineyard of nine emblematic vines of our wine-growing area, called INRAE-Bouquet varieties. Behind this progress in Languedoc viticulture lie major marketing challenges.

Who was Alain Bouquet?

Alain Bouquet has developed resistant varieties capable of producing quality wines. Dispossessed of his mission, he died in 2010, leaving a legacy that is a reference today: grapes of resistant genotypes, planted in Gruissan in Pech Rouge and tested for 10 years. His genius is that of having managed to cross a resistant vine with a “vitis vinifera” variety, a noble variety of the vine, which gives the wine the sought-after organoleptic qualities. During the technical day in Pech Rouge, the origin and genealogy of the Inrae-Bouquet varieties were explained by Hernan Ojeda, research engineer at the Pech Rouge experimental site. Laurent Torregrosa, professor at Supagro, spoke about the challenges of varietal resistance. Denis Bonsignour, France Agrimer, described the cataloging and classification process. Marie Corbel placed the Bouquets in this regulatory context with a zoom by Thierry Grimal, Cazes Experimental Domain Manager on the VATE system for Inrae-Bouquet varieties in the region and Philippe Gauthier, winemaker at Domaine de Cazes.

Full-size experimentation supervised and generating a report made by a CIVL-INRAE/IFV agreement and the attachment of these experiments to the national system Oscar the National Observatory of the diffusion of grape varieties, were detailed by Francis Cabaud of the Occitanie Region and Denis Bonsignour.

The major chord from 27 last February at the agricultural fair it provided the conditions for making nine Bouquet varieties available to winemakers for 2025. The question of supplying plants to the vineyard gave rise to a passionate exposé by Didier Viguier, head of the wood and plant laboratory at the Aude Chamber of Agriculture, followed by the intervention of Olivier Yobregat, winemaker at the IFV.

The integration into the specification gave rise to the testimonies of the directors, Stéphanie Daumas, AOP Languedoc and Florence Barthès, IGP Pays d’Oc.

Marketing from 2025

A round table brought together José Tastavy, IGP Hérault and IGP Oc producer and Inrae-Bouquet varietal experimenter, Martial Bories, president of the Occitane cooperative cellar, Gabriel Ruetsch and Audrey Arino of the Vignobles de Foncalieu cooperative cellar, Gérard Bertrand, Jean-Marc Lafage, producer and trader in the POs, Jean-Benoît Cavalier, president of the Languedoc AOP, and Jacques Gravegeal, president of the PGI Pays d’Oc.

A tasting of the Bouquet varieties then took place in Pech Rouge, commented by Jacques Rousseau of the IFV and Nicolas Dutour of the Dubernet laboratory, while visits to the vineyard and to these varieties were organised. A busy and high altitude day.

In the future, market wines from scent-resistant varieties

Winemaker of the Cévennes, Mathieu Manifacier cultivates curiosity. Passionate about innovation, the young winemaker who took over the “Domaine de Berguerolles” family estate in St Ambroix was one of the volunteer winegrowers who planted resistant varieties in 2017 as part of the Oscar OC programme, the observatory set up by CIVL and INRAE.

“It’s the future: treating much less and adapting to climate change is a matter of course”. Mathieu Manifacier owns one of the five parcels in Languedoc of a resistant grape variety, the “G9”. “It has a very good drought behavior and even in very hot climates it retains its very high antioxidant content, it is self-protecting! And it is easy to guarantee a harvest”, explains the oenologist, one of the few to commercialize this resistant Bouquet in purity.

“I created a beautiful cuvée, Pet Nat, a natural sparkling wine, with the ancestral method of spontaneous refermentation in the bottle, a natural wine that is very popular in the United States”. Among his 22 grape varieties, he planted Resdur, these INRAE ​​resistant French selections that are now licensed: Floréal, Vidoc and Souvignier gris. “If the Floréals suffered from water stress, this is not the case for the Souvignier Gris, but I find it difficult to market them under their name. We don’t know them. And in terms of organoleptic qualities they are less strong than the Bouquets”.

In Aude, it was the large Foncalieu establishment that was the first to launch itself on a large scale into the adventure of resistance fighters, thanks to the work of Gabriel Ruetsch alongside Alain Bouquet in 2006. “He offered us varieties, but after his death we weren’t allowed to plant them. Ten years later, we planted the available varieties such as Floréal, Artaban and Vidoc.” Like any pioneer, Vignobles Foncalieu has struggled to market them and is now limiting plantings. “No one knew them, we relied on a strong brand, acid colors and extravagant graphics”describes Audrey Arino, marketing manager.

“To market, the industry must be involved in naming, insists Loïc Breton, general manager of the VCR wine nursery. I campaign for the name Grenache Bouquet. When we taste Perfume, we find the vine we know. In Italy the law on resistant vines allows you to attach the name: we have Merlot Khorus, Cabernet Volos, Sauvignon Rytos… This allows the consumer to orient himself. In France, the INRA made us lose 30 years, due to disputes between researchers between Montpellier and Strasbourg, giving the order to tear up the ”Bouquet”. But we must realize that in times of wine crisis, it is research that brings consumers back”. Gérard Bertrand wants to be optimistic: “We have an ocean of opportunities in this region! We have been working on resistance fighters for 10 years. We must move forward, we must integrate climate change. We must plant the Bouquets and we absolutely must have the woods available! Alain Bouquet was a visionary, he understood what is happening today 30 years ago. We must strengthen the budgets in this region. We will communicate strongly to the interprofession!”

The producer of the Hérault, José Tastavy, shares this dynamism: “Faced with the climatic challenges, we must all try to improve things. Bouquets mark a fundamental evolution: it is a great pleasure to grow them, I have only cured them once this year! And they are very good. We will win races with them tomorrow, but first we have to choose the names”.

The producers who have embarked on the adventure of the resistant Bouquet varieties are full of praise for these wines which won with honors in tasting. “The best tribute to Alain Bouquetconcluded at the end of the day the former professor of Supagro, Alain Carbonneau, is to plant them!” But many questions still remain about the supply of seedlings, for which the director of the wood and seedling laboratory of the chamber of agriculture, Didier Viguier, has been preparing for years.

The sector seems unanimous, many obstacles have been overcome but there is still a long way to go to conquer the markets.

But optimism must prevail, because reducing pesticides is a creed that has been convincing consumers for years.

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