Thursday, 18 October 2012

150 Years of Languedoc grape varieties

The Béziers médiathèque is an impressive new building just to the east of the town centre. An exhibition "150 years of grape varieties in the Languedoc" has a display of lithographs of grape varieties by Henri Marès published in 1890. This is one of them.

My translation "Probably a very old variety originating from the Bas-Languedoc.
Long living, the aspiran variety displays an elegant poise and shape in its leaves and bunches. In the departments of the Bas-Languedoc it is [in 1890] usually the preferred table grape for eating. It is delicious and wholesome and very moreish, one can east vast quantities. No other variety is lighter, more agreeable and easier to digest".

Aspiran is a small village just off the Hérault valley in the Pézenas appellation (I also have a blog on the village Aspiran Postcard). To my knowledge this is the only French planted grape variety named after a local place, or at least a small village (Syrah derives from Shiraz in Persia, now Iran). Today Aspiran seems to be better known under the synonym Ribeyrenc, but that said the grape is seriously rare with just a handful of vines growing in a few Languedoc domaines. It seems following the phylloxera epidemic and frosts of 1956 the variety was not replanted.

A big hope is Domaine Thierry Navarre at Roquebrun who has rescued and grafted some vines and is now making a Ribeyrenc. I now need to seek this out.

Other references I have found are Wikipedia
And a fiche in French from INRA

The dossier on the médiathèque exhibition is here (for now) dossier-cepage.pdf

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