Friday, August 21, 2015

A history of Lledoner Pelut in Tuchan

The Lledoner Pelut is a very old grape variety dating back to the middle ages and was probably imported from Spain by pilgrims on their way to Saint Jacques de Compostelle.  

It is a very rare grape variety in Tuchan but there was a peak in the 70's and 80's when planting Grenache Noir was restricted in favour of the Lledoner Pelut!  This was an attempt to limit the production of a wine called Rivesaltes.

Rivesaltes is a very sweet, mainly red dessert wine made from Grenache Noir.   The name comes from a village in the Roussillon but Rivesaltes can also be made in Tuchan. In fact in all villages that produce Fitou.

Growers in Tuchan planted Grenache Noir to produce Rivesaltes but also Fitou, their traditional red wine.  Sales of Rivesaltes slumped so to try to stabilise the market the Union of Rivesaltes Producers and the INAO in Paris limited planting rights of Grenache Noir but were more generous with planting rights for Lledoner Pelut.  Lledoner Pelut – the poor cousin of Grenache Noir - couldn’t be used for the production of Rivesaltes, only Fitou.

Lledoner Pelut didn’t really take off with the growers in Tuchan.  It was from the same family as the Grenache Noir but it had hairy leaves which made it particularly attractive to tiny red spiders. It easily became infested causing the leaves to dry out.  It was later ripening than the Grenache so needed to be left on the vine longer to ripen but was also more susceptible to grey rot - not a great combination!  The potential alcohol is also less  - meaning if you are in a Cooperative you get paid less.   So all in all not a storming success!!  

The name hairy Grenache comes from these hairs
on the back of the leaves which spiders absolutely love

The Union of Rivesaltes Producers soon realised that this small measure of replacing Grenache with Lledoner wasn’t enough to regulate the over supply of Rivesaltes so it was abandoned a couple of years later – much to the delight of growers in Tuchan who consequently ripped most of it up!

We wait with great anticipation (and a little fear) to see what our first harvest of low yielding Lledoner Pelut will bring!!