Thursday, 4 November 2010


Jancis Robinson recently wrote that (in Argentina) Bonarda was rather less noble than Malbec (FT, 25.9.10). In her 'Vines, Grapes and Wines' (itself a classic, published in 1986) she avoids the use of the word noble and refers to varieties as Classic, Major and Other, admitting that there is an element of quantity as well as quality in these classifications. In other words, just because it is listed under 'Other' it doesn't mean that a variety is inferior to a Classic or Major variety, just that it is not so widely planted or as well known internationally.

It may also be because it has not been defined as such by the French:

"Historically speaking, the noble grapes comprised only six varieties. The white noble grapes were Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay. The red noble grapes were Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot." (Wikipedia). The author adds; "The phrase 'noble grape' is a classical term used to describe the grapes traditionally associated with the highest quality wines. The term is not as commonly used today...partly because the term originated in France which leads some critics to feel that the term unfairly slights varieties grown in other regions.

So Jancis Robinson probably means Bonarda (in reality Douce Noire) is less noble because plantings in Argentina are lower than those of Malbec. That's what we hope she means, but use of the words 'less noble' suggests Argentinian Bonarda is qualitatively inferior to Malbec. We at Slotovino would not wish to make such a comparison. It would be like saying Mozart is inferior to Beethoven or vice versa.

True some varieties are still waiting to achieve their full realisation but there have been so many examples of reviled grapes ("les mal aimés") producing wonderful wine out of the blue (such as Dov Segal's Argamon) that we would not like to dispense with any of them entirely (despite the rude things we have said about them in this blog - see Caradoc).

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