Who ya gonna call? Those bastards!

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Who are all these bastards? The Vitis International Variety Catalogue (VIVC) lists no less than 38 wine grape variety names that begin with some form of the term bastardo. These include Bastardo Branca, Bastaro do Douro, Bastardo dos Frades de Bolinio, Bastardos Saperavi, and Bastardo Castico. They are mostly red varieties (32/38 are red), and hail from many different countries—Spain, Portugal, France, Georgia, Ukraine, and South Africa.

Some of these 38 bastardos are synonyms for other, better-known grape varieties—such as Bastardo Espanhol = Tinta de Lisboa, Bastardo Negro = Alfrochiero, and Bastardo Nero = Graciano.

No less than five of our Bastardos—including Bastardo do Castello, Bastardo do Douro, and Bastardo Preto—are listed in the VIVC catalog as synonyms for Trousseau. Trousseau is also the name cross-referenced with the entry for Bastardo in Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, and José Vouillamoz. So, with that ultra-impressive source, I am going to find out a bit more about this bastard by learning about the grape variety otherwise known as Trousseau.

Trousseau is a red grape variety and one of the two grapes indigenous to the Jura region of eastern France—the other is Poulsard, also a red variety.  Trousseau only occupies about 5% of the vineyard land in the Jura; but is authorized as a principal grape variety in many Jura appellations, including the Arbois, Crémant du Jura, Macvin du Jura, and Côtes du Jura AOCs.

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Trousseau is planted in many regions across Spain, including Galicia and Asturias (where it may be known as Verdejo Negro). It is approved for use in the Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras DOs (under the name Merenzao), and is grown in other regions throughout the north of Spain as well.

Portugal has more than 3,000 acres/1,200 ha of Trousseau/Bastardo and as such, is the leading country in terms of plantings. Much of it is grown in the Douro, where it is often found in field blends (mixed vineyards), and winds up being used in the production of Port. Plantings are also found in the Dão, Beiras, and on the island of Madeira. Bastardo is the typical name used for the grape in Portugal, and appears to be the birthplace of the colorful name.

Trousseau is early-budding, early-ripening, somewhat disease-prone, and susceptible to botrytis. It needs a lot of sunshine to fully ripen; and can lack color intensity if under-ripe or over-cropped. As such, it’s a bit difficult in the vineyard.

When its good, Trousseau produce delightful, varietal wines with aromas of dark, red-and-black berries, orange peel, black pepper, fresh herbs, a hint of earthiness, and a distinct minerality. The grape can potentially reach high levels of sugar while retaining a crisp acidity; and has been known to produce a flavorful rosé.

We may never know who the original bastardo was. According to Jancis Robinson, et al, in Wine Grapes, the name was first recorded long ago—in 1531, to be exact,—in a treatise entitled Description of the Terroir Around Lamego written by Portuguese a writer named Rui Fernandes.

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Fun facts about Trousseau:

  • The name Trousseau may be a reference to the Old French word trusse, meaning “a bundle;” it could be said that the grapes appear “bundled up.” Or…it may be a reference to the French word troussé, meaning “trussed;” this could be a reference to the shape of the bunches.
  • Trousseau is not the same grape as Tressot—a red grape from France’s Yonne department—even though they are often confused (and despite the similarity of the names).
  • A white (pink-skinned) mutation of Trousseau known as Trousseau Gris is grown in a few areas—mostly in the Jura region of France—and was known, once-upon-a-time in California, as Gray Riesling.
  • In the New World, Trousseau has recently been identified in an old vineyard in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley AVA. Several wine growers in Oregon—in the Umpqua and Willamette Valley AVAs—have begun planting it as well.

References/for more information: 

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net