L'Institut National de l'Origine et de la Qualité (Inao) confirmed the application for approval of the resistant grape variety Volits for the production of Champagne AOC. This new breed is the first resistant grape variety to be included in a French appellation.
“Voltis is one of the answers to the important question of coexistence between residents and producers. Above all, it is about developing practices and consumption in the spirit of sustainability,” explains Maxime Toubart, co-president of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (Civc) and president of the Syndicat Général des Vignerons (SGV).
With its introduction in the Champagne appellation, Voltis would be the first grape variety resistant to downy and powdery mildew to be included in an AOC* specification. At its meeting on February 10, the National Committee for Designations of Origin for Wines of the Institut National de l'Origine et de la Qualité (INAO) approved Champagne's request to include the Voltis grape variety in its specifications on a trial basis. It is a trial of a grape variety with “sustainable resistance” (ResDur1) that allows drastically reducing phytosanitary treatments against fungal diseases (downy mildew and powdery mildew) in the appellation field.
This is within the framework of the "Variétés d'Intérêt à Fin d'Adaptation" (VIFA), ie up to 5 % of the cultivated areas of a farm and up to 10 % of the mixtures over a period of 5 years (renewable once). This change in specification, which will soon be subject to a two-month national opposition procedure (PNO), takes advantage of the European possibility, from 2023, to include grape varieties other than 100 % Vitis vinifera in the DOP specifications (here a French hybrid variety that has organoleptic characteristics of traditional vine varieties with resistance genes to downy and powdery mildew from wild vines of the Vitis genus). A legal development expected by the wine-growing areas with designation of origin to meet the challenges of the ZNT (Zones de Non Traitement).
Beyond the ZNT
The request for the inclusion of Voltis, validated in Champagne in the summer of 2021, corresponds to strong and urgent societal challenges. “The Voltis is one of the answers to the important challenge of taking into account coexistence: between local residents and production. But it goes beyond the NTZ, it is also a consideration of developments in practices and consumption,” explains Maxime Toubart, Co-President of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) and President of the Syndicat Général des Vignerons (SGV). He added: "We remain convinced that an AOC should not constantly evolve, but rather adapt to the constraints". This approach is shared by Christian Paly, President of the National Committee for Designations of Origin for Wines of the INAO, who notes that the PDO with this "first Vitis that we include in a specification for a controlled designation of origin", the PDO "in an overly reactive and innovative position" to "react to the future challenges of French agriculture".
While the first VIFAs are being used in French vineyards to respond to the challenges of climate change, Voltis would be the first AOC organic VIFA. The wines with Protected Geographical Indications have been using resistant grape varieties since 2019, with no restrictions other than classification and registration in the official national catalog of grape varieties, by decree of December 22nd last year. Other changes to the Champagne specifications include the approval of semi-wide vines, the obligation to treat seedlings with hot water, etc. "Challenges that not only affect Champagne but are also of interest to all other regions," stresses Maxime Toubart.