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.
But for now, the vines are tiny and all pretty much look the same. So this year, we’ve been using them to show visitors and tourists how grape vines look when they’re first planted.
It’s an interesting process since we rarely plant from seed anymore. Instead we use bench grafts that connect the variety we want to grow to a rootstock suited for that soil and rainfall.
When young, the graft is sealed in wax. We show everybody this waxy bit and get to use the young vines to illustrate the notion of grafting and rootstock. This can naturally lead into conversations about how deep roots go, why virtually all French vines are planted on American rootstock, and so on.
Photos of young grape vines
Click on any of the photos below for a larger view:
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