All about Alicante Bouschet

Alicante Bouschet is one of the more than twenty different grape varieties planted at our historic Old Stake 1901 Vineyard near Kelseyville in Lake County, California.

The grape was first cultivated in France in 1866 by Henri Bouschet as a cross of Grenache and Petit Bouschet, which had in turn been created by his father Louis Bouschet as a cross of the very old variety Teinturier du Cher and Aramon. It is a rarity among Vitis vinifera species because its flesh is red and hence it is known as a teinturier from the old French word for someone who dyes fabric. The resulting depth of color makes it a unique blending component.

Rather obscure today, it was popular in California during Prohibition (1920-33) particularly for export to the East Coast. The intense red color was helpful for stretching wine, as it could be diluted without detracting from the appearance, while its potentially high yields and plump, juicy pulp made it possible to extract fermentable juice even after the third pressing. In addition its thick skin made it resistant to rot during the long journey to the East Coast.

The Volstead Act, which set the rules of Prohibition, allowed up to 200 gallons of home-made wine per year, per household, for consumption in the home only. This loophole was widely exploited and the volume of wine exported from the west coast to the east, to New York in particular, was staggering. In 1928 for example, 225 railcar loads of grapes were auctioned off at Penn Station to a single buyer, enough to make more than 2,000,000 gallons of wine!

While still planted in many European wine regions, it now plays a minor role there, except in Portugal’s Alentejo where is it widely used and produces expensive wines that often outperform other better known varieties. These high-end wines are valued for their full body, dense color and complexity.

As we’ve mentioned in other blog posts, Alicante Bouschet is also one of the red grapes being tested by various Napa viticulturalists as a possible hedge against the effects of climate change on more typical and popular red varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon – so the old may become new again.

At Old Stake the red wine field blend is anchored by Zinfandel while Alicante Bouschet comprises about 9% along with a similar amount of Cinsault, which together help drive the wine’s distinctively soft, round tannin structure and fresh fruit notes, accompanied by spicy aromatics.

You really owe it to yourself to taste this wine! Order your 3 pack today

Alicante Bouschet leaves turn a beautiful purple hue in late autumn as shown in this photo from Old Stake after the 2019 harvest.

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