Enology Notes

Enology Notes #42 March 20, 2002

To: Regional Wine Producers

From: Bruce Zoecklein

Subject: Tannat, Tannat BATF Proposal of Rulemaking, and APM’s Scholarship program

Tannat. That grape, as its name suggests, is exceptionally tannic and also high in anthocyanins. It has the potential for tremendous color and longevity but is frequently not very approachable to drink until after many years of aging. Tannat is a tough, black-berried vine variety most famous as the principal ingredient in the local wines from the southern French region of Madiran, where its inherent astringence is mitigated by blending with Cabernet Franc, some Cabernet Sauvignon, and Fer, and wood aging for at least 20 months. If Madiran is Tannat's noblest manifestation, slightly more approachable, if more rustic, wines are made to much the same recipe for Côtes du Brulhois. Overall plantings in France have been declining, so that there are fewer than 3,000 ha/7,400 acres. Although it may owe its French name to its high tannin content, the vine is almost certainly Basque in origin and, like Manseng, was taken to Uruguay by Basque settlers in the 19th century. There are several thousand hectares there, where it is called Harriague, presumably after its original promulgator. From here, it spread to Argentina, where it is still grown to a very limited extent.

Patrick Ducournau, who is originally from the Madiran area, decided that the wine needed something to soften it so the wines could be consumed earlier. He developed the concept of Microoxygenation. I have reported in several issues of Enology Notes and The Vintner’s Corner the results of our research on microoxgenation, which essentially allows a very small controlled amount of oxygen to diffuse directly into the wine through a ceramic diffuser with very small pores. The process of Microoxygenation is essentially a new method for a very old idea. It has long been known that exposure to oxygen in air is useful to help soften red wines and smooth tannic wines.

As I discovered during a recent trip to Uruguay, Tannat was first established as a major variety in Uruguay following its introduction in 1870. Uruguay is the only country in South America where this grape is commonly found. For this reason, the Uruguayan winemaking industry has established a strategy to produce Tannat wine, using advanced viticultural and winemaking technology. Considerable research and development on the viticulture and enology of this variety in Uruguay continues.

Tannat is an important grape variety for Virginia. However, it may be of surprise to people to learn that the grape is currently not an approved BATF variety. A petition has been filed to change that (see below). I urge those in our region to write the BATF in support of the use of this varietal designation.

Tannat BATF Proposal of Rulemaking. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms 27 CFR Part 4, [Notice No. 934] RIN 1512-AC50. Proposed Addition of Tannat as a Grape Variety name for American Wines (2001R-207F)

Summary: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) is proposing to add a new name, “Tannat,” to the list of prime grape variety names for use in designating American wines.

Date: Written comments must be received by March 25, 2002.

Addresses: Send written comments to: Chief, Regulations Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, P.O. Box 50221, Washington, DC 20091-0221 (Attn: Notice No. 934).

Email. The BATF will accept e-mail comments by writing to nprm@atfhq.atf.treas.gov. You must follow these instructions. E-mail comments must:

-Contain your name, mailing address, and e-mail address. -Reference the notice number. -Be legible when printed on not more than three pages 8 ½” x 11" in size.

The BATF will not acknowledge receipt of e-mail. They will treat e-mail as originals.

For Further Information Contact: Jennifer Berry, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Regulations Division, 113 W. Huron Street, Room 219, Buffalo, NY 14202-2301: Telephone (718) 434-8039.

Tannat Petition. Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, California, has petitioned ATF proposing the addition of the name “Tannat” to the list of prime grape variety names approved for the designation of American wines. “Tannat is a red varietal with origins in Southwestern France and the Pyrenees”.

Tablas Creek Vineyard states that it imported the Tannat plant into the USDA station in Geneva, New York, in 1992. The plant was declared virus free in 1993 and shipped bare-root to Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, California, in February 1993. In 1996, the winery multiplied, grafted and started planting Tannat.

The petition states that the Tannat grape is currently grown and used in the United States in winemaking. It reports that in 2000 and 2001, it shipped several orders for Tannat plants to vineyards in California, Arizona, and Virginia. Also, Tannat has long been grown in the vine collections of the University of California. At the request of the petitioner, Richard Hoenisch, Vineyard Manager, Viticulture and Enology Department, University of California at Davis, contacted ATF with information about Tannat’s history in the university’s collection.

APM and Scholarships. This year at Wineries Unlimited, APM’s Mark Bassel again held their annual Casino fund raiser for American Society for Enology and Viticuture-Eastern Section scholarships. It is my understanding that Mark and APM match the funds pledged by the casino participants. This year over $13,000 was raised. In the four years that Mark Bassel and APM have conducted this casino night, over $39,000 have been raised for scholarships.

It is very difficult to overstate the importance and significance of this generosity. Students in our Enology-Grape Chemistry Group alone have received 5 ASEV-ES scholarships. These funds have allowed students to conduct research which we all hope will have a positive impact on the development of our industry. I am not aware of any supplier that has supported this industry to the same extent. I thought you should know!

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Dr. Bruce Zoecklein Associate Professor and Enology Specialist
Head, Enology-Grape Chemistry Group
Department of Food Science and Technology
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg VA 24061
Enology-Grape Chemistry Group Web address: www.fst.vt.edu/zoecklein/index.html
Phone: (540) 231-5325
Fax: (540) 231-9293
E-mail: bzoeckle@vt.edu