Bordeaux responds to climatic change by introducing new grape varieties resistant to heat and drought. According to Wine Spectator, six additional varieties will be planted in the region and allowed in the famous Bordeaux blend: Touriga Nacional, Castets, Marselan, and Arinarnoa for reds; Alvarinho and Lilorila for whites. This landmark decision was made by INAO, the French organization that governs wine appellations. The change currently applies to Bordeaux entry-level wines, AOC Bordeaux and AOC Bordeaux Supérieur, but other categories are expected to follow. 

The move follows 11 years of research at Plot 52, an experimental vineyard in Pessac-Léognan planted to 52 grape varieties to determine their suitability for a warmer, drier Bordeaux. 

Winegrowers can begin planting the new varieties this year. However, the INAO approval comes with considerable restrictions. Only 5 percent of the vineyard surface can be planted with the new varieties, and those grapes cannot contribute more than 10 percent of volume to the final blend. The trial period lasts 10 years. Furthermore, the grape varieties will not appear on labels, so consumers won’t know if they’re drinking a blend that includes the new varieties. This phase allows winegrowers to test the grapes in their fields and cellars.

Remarkably, the objective is to preserve the characteristics of Bordeaux wines rather than change anything in their identity. “I think the new varieties make less change, if they are well-chosen,” Professor Kees van Leeuwen, the viticulturist in charge of the project said to Wine Spectator. “They will make less of a change to the typicity of Bordeaux wines than if we don’t change the varieties.” Without action, climate change will alter the typicity of Bordeaux wine, he says. “Wine made from Merlot in Bordeaux in 2050 will have a very different taste, because it will ripen in August, it will have 16 percent alcohol and pH of 4.1.”

Although consumers won’t know from the label if they’re participating in this experiment—at least until after the trial period—négociants are confident that Bordeaux lovers will embrace the future blends for their quality and identity.