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Calaveras Wine Varietal Spotlight Series: "Alicante Bouschet"

[July 28, 2022 - Murphys, CA] Calaveras Winegrape Alliance Education & Events Manager, Mark Silverstone, brings you this bi-weekly spotlight series to educate and inspire! Of the 52 varieties of grapes grown in Calaveras county (going from A to Z), second up is Alicante Bouschet. The phonetic spelling of alicante bouschet is a-li-cante bous-chet. This grape has been widely cultivated since 1866, originating in southern France. It came into existence by careful and deliberate breeding. The goal was to create a grape that had high color intensity, productivity and fruitiness. A botanist named Henri Bouschet achieved this in the mid-1800’s by crossing fruity Grenache (known as Alicante in southern France) with a teinturier grape developed by his dad called Petit Bouschet. Teinturier grapes come from the French word for dye – Alicante Bouschet grapes have red flesh (the norm being clear), which is a rarity in the wine world. Be prepared for a bold lush wine and the potential for purple teeth!

Alicante Bouschet is big and boldly fruit forward, with flavors ranging from fresh to jammy blackberries, blueberries and black cherries. It has spicy, smoky flavors with sweeter tones of dark chocolate, baking spice and vanilla bean. The vines grow easily and produce high yields. The grapes ripen late and love hot, dry areas with lots of sun (such as Calaveras County).

Fun facts... Alicante Bouschet was a key wine grape during Prohibition. The grape’s thick tannin filled and colorful skins meant they could survive the long railway transportation from California to the East Coast and produce 700 gallons of wine per ton (verses the average of 150 gallons). Grape bricks could be bought at auction in New York City and then soaked in water to make delicious wine. A small loophole in the law allowed families to make a modest amount of “bathtub” wine at home this way.

Where to find Alicante Bouschet in Calaveras County with tasting notes:

Milliaire Winery – 2019 “Alley Cat” - These grapes were harvested from a 104 year old vineyard, lovingly tended by Les & Chris Martin in Valley Springs, Calaveras County. The vines are trained in the old Italian style - little trees that grow low to the ground. From the first sip, juicy raspberries & blueberries with subtle smoky tannins explode on the palate, with ripe plums & black cherries on the finish. Only 40 cases produced.

Hatcher Winery – 2017 Alicante Bouschet from the Cooper Ranch, Amador County. Blood red in color. One of only 4 varietals that the pulp of the grape is red. Hints of American Oak and currant. Heavy red fruit in the mouthfeel. Dark cherries, cooked fruit, reminiscent to a pie. Hints of graham cracker and a long dark finish. During summer this wine would pair well with tri-tip topped with sautéed mushrooms and onions.


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