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Carl Hudson
 
August 17, 2016 | Wine Varietals | Carl Hudson

Blanc du Bois – For the Hot & Humid

Blanc du Bois is a hybrid grape generated by John Mortenson at the Univ of Florida in 1968, by crossing another hybrid, Florida D 6-148 with Cardinal, a CA table grape.  The varietal was named for Emile DuBois, a grower who emigrated from France to the U.S. in 1882.  It was released to commercial growers in 1987, and has now spread across the southeastern states from Florida to Texas.  Hallmark characteristics include crisp acidity, fresh fruit and floral aromas, along with citrusy flavors.  Blanc du Bois typically works better in off-dry wines, and has been used to make fortified wines in the style of Madeira. 

Perhaps the most important characteristic of Blanc du Bois is its resistance to Pierce's Disease, a major issue in more humid climates, and a threat to the Texas wine industry.  It is also resistant to downy mildew, and grows well on its own rootstock, so grafting is not required.  Coupling the hardy nature of Blanc du Bois with the capacity to produce relatively high yields makes it economically attractive to growers. 

Vitis Viniferia grapes (Cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, viognier, tempranillo, etc.) are particularly susceptible to Pierce's Disease (PD) which attacks the xylem of vines (the sap conducting corridor between the bark & soft wood).  A research team, led by Dr. Mortenson, at Univ of Florida’s Leesburg Research Station developed Blanc du Bois as a new grape with full resistance to PD.  This hybrid grape had parentage from native American muscadine grapes which are naturally resistant to PD.  For the past 25 years, Blanc du Bois has proven a good source for white wines in the hot and humid regions of the American Southeast. 

Blanc du Bois can be used to produce dry, off-dry, sweet, sparkling and even fortified dessert wines.  Haak Vineyards and Winery, Santa Fe, TX, northwest of Galveston near the Gulf Coast, has led the way in cultivation and vinification of Blanc du Bois in Texas.  Building on the success at Haak, a number of Texas vineyards now grow Blanc du Bois and several wineries are producing wines from this hydrid varietal.  Dry Blanc du Bois wines tend to show citrus & grapefruit aromas and flavors with hints of lemon drop, banana and honey – similar in some ways to sauvignon blanc.  Off-dry Blanc du Bois wines have a clean, crisp character with aromas and flavors of peach, pear and pineapple – similar to many off-dry Rieslings. 

Although Blanc du Bois may never garner the public exposure and popularity of many other white grapes, this sturdy varietal has shown it can grow well in a challenging climate, avoid the problems of PD and produce consumer friendly wines.  Lost Oak Winery produces both a dry and an off-dry Blanc du Bois, and recently blended a tasty dry blush, labeled Dry Rosé, from Muscat, Blanc du Bois and Merlot.  Drop by the 4.0 Cellars tasting room and explore Blanc du Bois for summer sipping pleasure.  

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