Redefining Greek Varieties: An interview with Jean-Michel Boursiquot
26 October 2015

Few days ago I had the pleasure of taking an interview from Jean-Michel Boursiquot, a professor of Ampelography in the University of Montpellier, France and an authority in plant material involved with clonal research in Greece.

We met in Nemea where I tasted 2 vintages of Agiorgitiko clone #03 vinified by VNB nursery. What was unbelievable was the phenolic maturity of the 2013 vintage where tannins were very ripe with just 11.5% abv!

Enough said, let Boursiquot speak and please enjoy

What are the characteristics of Greek varieties that distinguish them from other varieties in the world?

That is a difficult question, actually Greek Varieties are very specific but it is very difficult to say. I would say that lots of white cultivars are very interesting and well adapted to dry conditions and the Mediterranean climate. And the thing that is so important that you have huge diversity due to geography (different climates form north to south and soils as well).

Do you mean also clonal diversity?

Yes and clonal diversity.

What are your observations regarding clonal diversity for Greek varieties? Is it big or small?

Well it depends on the variety, so there are different levels of diversity from one variety to another. If the variety is very old and wide spread it would be bigger but it is very difficult at the moment to say or have a good idea of the clonal potential. It is just  the beginning of the clonal program in Greece next year where in France it started 50 years ago!

Another very important thing is that that of the plant's sanitary status. A lot of varieties are affected with leaf roll virus damaging the quality of the grapes by reducing photosynthesis. First step is to select clones that are free from diseases and like that you can begin to improve quality of the wine and second step is to look for differences regarding aromas and vigour.  

How possible is to find an Agiorgitiko clone with twice the phenolics we usually get from the variety?

A very large percentage of Agiorgitiko is affected with leaf roll. If eliminated there will be easily more phenols for sure.

How much do we really know about Greek varieties?

Difficult again to give a number but you have a large possibility of progress in the knowledge. I would say that for main varieties you know about 50% and for the rest almost nothing! And I suppose there will be a lot of surprises as we proceed.

Which Greek wines did you enjoy more?

I know only the most important cultivars and it's difficult to compare.  For the moment even if we are in Nemea I found the most pleasure in Xinomavro wine but in whites you have different styles that I enjoy in Assyrtiko and Moschofilero (more simple).

And in general which wines you enjoy more 

French wine Burgundy and Champagne.

Of course!

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