Alicante Bouschet Grape Variety & Wine Profile
Alicante Bouschet was once a popular French red grape but has now found a home in the Alentejo region of Portugal, where it has the nickname, “Tinta de Escrever,” as well as in parts of Spain, where it is called Garnacha Tintorera or Negral. It’s a Vitis vinifera grape that is a cross between Petit Bouschet and Grenache that was cultivated in 1866 by the French viticulturist, Henri Bouschet, whose father, Louis, had created the original Bouschet grape.
Though it was much more popular in the 20th century in France, there are still sizable plantings in the Languedoc, Provence, and Cognac regions of that country. However, many will argue that it is the most Portuguese non-Portuguese grape as it thrives in the arid climate of Alentejo, where it is the flagship red grape.
Terroir & Cultivation
In the vineyard, Alicante Bouschet is a thick-skinned grape that buds and ripens early. The vines grow best in soils with low-medium fertility located in dry, very warm climates, such as in Alentejo. It is largely resistant to rot but is prone to diseases such as anthracnose, downy mildew, and sometimes, bunch rot if the clusters grow too tightly. The propensity for early ripening and high yields can create grapes that are lacking in certain structural components, so growers must be careful when they choose to harvest. This is a “teinturier” grape, meaning it produces red juice.
RELATED: Learn About The Alentejo Wine Region
Alicante Bouschet Tasting Notes
Wines made from Alicante Bouschet are usually deep purple in color and known for being firm, with massive structure, and often, rustic tannins. The wines can also be higher in alcohol but lower in acidity, which is why the grape can be blended with others in order to provide balance, most specifically by adding softness and color. Typical aromas in Alicante Bouschet wines include forest berries, peppery black fruit, cocoa, and olives. Flavors of the wine include peppery black fruit, spices, cola, and cacao. These wines can often be jammy, although, if consumed too young, they can lack complexity. It’s best to age Alicante Bouschet in order to bring out tertiary flavors for a more well-rounded wine.
Because Alicante Bouschet typically creates a heavier wine, it’s best to pair it with equally as intense foods. BBQ or smoked meats are an option, as well as grilled vegetables. Roasted pig or lamb are options when enjoying Alicante Bouschet wines.
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Written By Jacqueline Coleman
Jacqueline Coleman is a professional wine + travel writer, wine judge, columnist, and consultant based in Miami, FL.