Alicante Bouschet is a teinturier grape variety widely planted in France (particularly in the Languedoc-Roussillon region), Spain and Portugal and, to a lesser extent, in parts of Italy, Israel, Macedonia, North Africa, Chile and California. The variety is a crossing of Petit Bouschet and Grenache, first cultivated by viticulturalist Henri Bouschet, in 1866.
Originally designed as a blending grape to improve the depth of color of such popular 19th-Century grapes as Aramon, Alicante Bouschet quickly became popular, not just for its intense coloring but for its generous yields. With its high-yielding, easy-to-grow vines, Alicante Bouschet was used to help rebuild devastated European wine industries following the phylloxera epidemic.
During the time of Prohibition in the United States, Alicante Bouschet was often grown in California and sold on the East Coast as table grapes. The variety’s thick skin made it sufficiently robust to withstand transportation in crates and its juicy flesh enabled illicit winemakers to press the grapes several times, ensuring that nothing went to waste.
In the latter half of the 20th Century, Alicante Bouschet developed a reputation for producing uninspiring wines that lacked varietal distinction. Modern producers in Almansa, Spain and in Alentejo, Portugal, are working hard to change people’s perception of the variety and prove that, when grown properly, it is capable of making great wine that is fruity, fresh and balanced.
In a blend, Alicante Bouschet contributes soft texture and desirable color. However, its ability to ripen and produce large crops very early in the season comes at the expense of depth and alcoholic strength. With controlled yields and diligent site selection, Alicante Bouschet can produce excellent wine at an attractive price.
Synonyms include: Alicante, Alicante Henri Bouschet, Garnacha Tintorera.
Food matches include:
Europe: Mixed meat kebab (espetada mista)
Americas: East Texas-style barbecue; Peruvian stuffed pepper (rocoto relleno)
Australasia/Oceania: Roasted suckling pig with tamarillo sauce