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Planting Mediterranean Grape Varieties in the Ampelographic Garden

Just a few miles outside of Carcassonne, you can see a collection of different grape varieties like Syrah, Grenache, Macabeu, Mauzac, Picquepoul, Terret, Vermentino, and more!   Just before budbreak 2012, dad planted the ampelographic garden at O’Vineyards.

A big thanks to the Chambre d’Agriculture who helped us find the best grape varieties, choosing the right clones to demonstrate varietal typicity on our terroir at O’Vineyards.

What is an Ampelographic Garden?

Ampelography is a big word used to describe the visual study and identification of grape vines.   And that’s basically what you can do here.  Wander down a row of vines and see if you can tell the difference between Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  Or can you tell Clairette from Picquepoul?  Which plants have leaves split into three parts and which have leaves with five parts?  Which varieties have the most ample fruit clusters?  The most leaf growth?  And so on.

Why is this fun and not just for wine nerds?

It’s just a few dozen plants, and it seems pretty nerdy, but we think it’ll be very fun.

A lot of the folks who visit O’Vineyards ask what the difference is between Merlot and Shiraz.  So it’s great to have a simple visual demonstration of how each of these varieties are unique and specially adapted to different conditions.  It’s much more exciting to show people some examples of differences than just saying “Well they’re all genetically different which results in having varying amount, shape, size and placement of leaves and fruit.”

Varietial wine are very popular in many countries.  Often times, people will just ask me “what type of wine is this?” meaning what varieties is it made up of?  Wine drinkers in the US and UK are always keen to learn the difference between grape varieties.

Planting the Grape Vines:

Some photos of Joe O’Connell planting his young vines and Jean Heritier, director at the Chambre d’Agriculture de l’Aude, helping out.

Here’s a full list of the grape varieties (and their clones and rootstocks) in our ampelographic garden… before anybody yells at me, I know some of these aren’t mediterranean.  But they should be fun to look at and they might exemplify the special climate we have in the Cabardes north of Carcassonne that allows us to grow some grape varieties like Merlot, Cot, and Cabernet


  • Cabernet Franc – 332 CALMET / 110 R
  • Cabernet Sauvignon – 15 / 161 49 C
  • Syrah – 524 / 161 49 C
  • Terret – CONS / 1103 P
  • Carignan – 274 / 333 EM
  • Cinsault – BED PLAI / 110 R
  • Cot (Malbec) – 594/ 140 RU
  • Grenache Noir – 433 / FERCAL
  • Marselan – 980 / SO4
  • Merlot – 184 CAL / FERCAL
  • Mourvedre – 360 / 110 R
  • Pinot Noir – 375 / 140 RU
  • Chardonnay – 96/ SO4
  • Chenin – 220/ SO4
  • Grenache Blanc – 143 / 110 R
  • Macabeu – CONS MAC PR / 110 R
  • Marsanne – 574 / FERCAL
  • Mauzac – 740 / 140 RU
  • Roussanne – 468 / 333 EM
  • Sauvignon – 108 / SO4
  • Vermentino – 795 / 140 RU
  • Clairette (gris) – CONS / 1103 P
  • Picquepoul (gris) – CONS / 1103 P


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Please leave a comment

  1. Iris Says:

    what a nice idea, Ryan! I have also noticed, that visitors are very interested in seeing the different varieties in the vineyard when coming to Lisson. We have only 7 different reds for our wines and some 5 disseminated whites, we planted just for fun after having met the Pope of French ampelography, Pierre Galet in a conference, many years ago. And it must be far more comfortable to see them all together in a small plot, without having to climb up a mountain, especially on a hot summer day:-). It’s so interesting, to see their different development, shape variety and ripeness all the year long. I’m just a bit sorry, that I didn’t think about their autumn colours – so ours all turn yellow in the end…next time, I would choose some different taints of red, to pop up in the middle:-).

    And for those, whose get curious: there is the world greatest ampelographic collection with thousands of varieties of grapes for wine and grapes just to eat, which belongs to the Montpellier University, planted in the sand, where you can use direct plants without grafting, at Marseillan, near Sête. They have 6 of each and study their behaviour and even make small vinifications of each bunch in glasses…

  2. Peter Woodcock Says:

    That’s a wonderful idea. I’m sure all your visitors will be fascinated to see the different varieties next door to each other. I will try and come up myself for a look too.

  3. mroconnell Says:

    Ya, that university garden sounds wild. I still look forward to climbing that mountain with you one day Iris.

    Peter, you’ll surely see the garden soon enough. But it’ll look pretty simple the first few years as the grafts are really very similar young :)

  4. Young grape vine garden – barely 1 year old | O'Vineyards Carcassonne Wine Blog Says:

    [...] We planted a grapevine garden in front of the winery this spring. One day, this vineyard garden will showcase all the different types of grape vines that can be found in this part of France. People will be able to tell the difference between Syrah and Grenache and Merlot and Cabernet by seeing the vines right beside each other. [...]

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