French demand outstrips supply for hybrid vines

French viticulturists are clamouring for disease resistant vines, but demand is outstripping supply amid accusations of protectionism. Sophie Kevany reports.

Photo by Vera Cires on Unsplash
Photo by Vera Cires on Unsplash

After languishing in the legal and ideological shadows for many years, hybrid vines are now seeing French demand outstrip supply. The tight market has led one Italian supplier to claim that France is attempting to limit the supply of foreign hybrids to protect its own breeds. 

Hybrids, also known as resistant vines, are bred to withstand mildew, oidium and, in some cases, black rot attacks, meaning they require low to no chemical treatments.

Reporting last month from SITEVI, the vine, olive and fruit equipment and expertise show, French wine website Vitisphere reported many suppliers were now taking orders for 2021 due to shortages.

At the Mercier Group, however, one of the first nurseries in France to supply hybrid vines, innovation director Olivier Zekri told Meininger’s they are mostly managing to keep pace. 

“We have orders for 100,000 vines for planting next year, mostly all ResDur1,” he said. ResDur1 is the collective name for the Artaban, Floréal, Vidoc and Voltis hybrid types developed by France’s national agricultural research agency, INRA.

Of that 100,000, Zekri said about 20,000 are non-French hybrids, such as the German Souvigner-Gris and Muscaris, both white. And two Swiss reds, Prior and Monarch. Mercier has its own hybrid too, a white called Sauvignac. “We have about 50,000 available and it’s resistant to oidium, mildew and black rot,” he said. 

But while ordering a year and a half in advance is one option, an Italian vine supplier selling in France argued shortages could be cured another way: by opening up foreign supply lines. 

“We have many more hybrid vines we could be selling to French growers but a political decision was taken to limit us to only one, the Soreli,” said Loïc Breton, French country director for the Italian Vivai Cooperativi Rauscedo (VCR). 

That decision to limit foreign hybrid supplies, said Breton, effectively protects the ResDur1 varieties. Breton has already sold about 320,000 Soreli vines and has a waiting list out to 2021. 

Asked if he felt that was a reasonable claim, Zekri said yes. “It can be hard to import and sell non-French hybrids. They don’t make it easy.”

Zekri argued however that the hybrid market is still very new and likely to change quickly. “It just needs time. Everything will get easier as people understand more about the vines,” and the size and type of demand, he said. 

Sophie Kevany

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