French working to give wine a fruity makeover

GAILLAC, France - A group of wine cooperatives in south-west France has joined forces with leading scientists to "liberate" the flavours most prized by consumers in growing wine markets, from China to the United States.

In a bid to bring out the fruitiness enjoyed by many new wine drinkers, the Vinneo project has been developing the blackcurrant aroma of the Fer Servadou grape variety and the violet aroma of the Negrette variety.

Since 2009 it has been working with scientists on technologies to develop a range of varietal wines - ones made from a single-named type of grape - to appeal to the palates of consumers worldwide.

"We didn't want to make the wine our grandfather would have made. We wanted to make the wine our grandfather would have made if he could," Vinovalie director Jacques Tranier said.

Vinovalie, which is leading the project, is a group of four major wine cooperatives.

They represent the appellations of Gaillac, Fronton and Cahors and are one of the area's largest producers of red and rose wines, along with a small amount of white.

For too long, Mr Tranier said, French winemaking had "overplayed the return to tradition", while at the same time ignoring innovation - to the detriment of the industry.

In particular, he believes French winemakers have neglected the fruity flavours enjoyed by newer wine drinkers in fast-growing markets such as Asia, and which are often found in New World wines.

"We used to think that the whole world revolved around French wine," Mr Tranier said.

"At the beginning of the 2000s that orthodoxy collapsed. We realised all of a sudden that we had competition," he added.The project - run in conjunction with researchers at the National Polytechnic Institute of Toulouse (INP) and the French Vine and Wine Institute - now appears to be bearing fruit.

Vinovalie exports have tripled over the last five years to six million euros (S$10 million).

The growth comes as global consumption of wine is on the rise, driven by a growing taste for the tipple in Asia, and particularly China, now the world's biggest consumer of red wine.

Between 2008 and 2012, the amount of wine drunk around the world increased by 3.23 per cent, and that is expected to climb by another 4.97 per cent by 2017, according to a study by Vinexpo and the British International Wine and Spirit Research think-tank.

In the US, which has been the world's top consumer of wine since 2011, red wine consumption is expected to jump 14 per cent in the next five years.

Christophe Haunold of INP said it was important to preserve the character of the Vinovalie grapes - Malbec, Fer Servadou, Loin de l'oeil (also known as Len de l'El) and Negrette - while ensuring both quality and quantity.

"That required a lot of science and technology," he said.