Alicante Henri Bouschet, or Alicante Bouschet as it more commonly is called, is a black grape of French origin. It is also part of vine breeding history. The crossing dates back to 1865, e.g. pre phylloxera time, when Henri Bouschet used Garnacha and Petit Bouschet to create the Alicante Henri Bouschet.
Alicante Henri Bouschet will produce deep dark, fruit driven wines with spice, good tannin levels, and a gentle earthiness to them. As a blending companion, it contributes with tannins and colour. Being a potentially high yielding variety, it must be kept in a tight rein with green harvest.
In Spain and Portugal it is appreciated as a variety predominantly used for varietal wines, while it seems to have a somewhat worse reputation in other countries. This is understandable as it for a long period of time was known for producing juice for industrial wine making.
A varietal Alicante Henri Bouschet will pair nicely with various meat dishes such as pork, lamb and beef.
If you decide to pair with pork or lamb the dishes need to have some seasoning to them, e.g. they cannot be too bland if you want to find a good balance between wine and food. The wine is best served at 16°C/61°F – 18°C/64°F.
Where is it grown?
Alicante Henri Bouschet is declining in France as its traditional blending partner Aramon is also shrinking. In spite of this, Alicante Henri Bouschet was reported to have world-wide plantings of more than 38.370 ha/94,800 ac in 2010, an increase of 1.330 ha/3.290 ac since 2000. This places Alicante Henri Bouschet as the twenty-third most planted grape in the world.
The largest plantings are found in Spain followed by France, Chile, Portugal, Algeria, and Morocco.
- Spain: 119.551 ha/48,312 ac, Mpg rank 10
- France: 4.322 ha/10,680 ac, Mpg rank 23
- Chile: 4.228 ha/10,448 ac, (doubled since 2000) Mpg rank 7
- Portugal: 3.322 ha/8,209 ac, (quintupled since 2000) Mpg rank 15
- Algeria: 3.020 ha/7,460 ac, Mpg rank 4
- Morocco: 1.098 ha/2,713 ac, Mpg rank 9
There are also reports of plantings of various – however smaller – sizes in Argentina, Brazil, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Romania, South Africa, Tunisia, Turkey, USA, and Ukraine.
Henri Bouschet was a French breeder who continued in his father’s footsteps. Actually, one of the grapes he used to create Alicante Henri Bouschet, Petit Bouschet, was an earlier crossing between Aramon and Teinturier du Cher, created in 1824 by his father, Louis Bouschet.
Henri Bouschet made numerous crossings out of which only a couple are still in use today. During the Prohibition in USA, Alicante Henri Bouschet was grown as a table grape and at the same time used for illegal wine making, leading to a substantial increase in acreage. It has since then declined to reported plantings of 430 ha/1.060 ac in 2010, all in California.
It will be interesting to follow how winemakers in different parts of the world, who don’t have to fight with the cultural heritage of blending with the Aramon grape, will deal with this basically very nice grape.