When the phylloxera vastatrix, a deadly aphid for vines, reached France by accident in a shipment from Eastern U.S.A. in teh second half of the 19th century, its effects started to create havoc.
The wine industry in France, and other European countries, were facing certain ruin. Nothing helped, until a “genius” reasoned that grafting noble vitis vinifera species on to vitis labrusca or vitis riparia rootstock would combat, successfully, the dreaded disease.
After this important discovery, many hybridisers like Francois Baco, Seyval, Landot, Kuhlmann and others started to create vines to suit different terroirs, ripening characteristics, and resistance to a number of vine diseases.
Francois Baco (1865 – 1947) was an educator, and on the side, involved in crossing vines. First he created the Baco Blanc in 1894 by crossing Folle Blanche and Noah, itself a hybrid of vitis riparia and vitis labrusca called Taylor.
This prolific grape was popular in Charente Maritime, Armagnac and a few other regions in France, but now almost all vines have been uprooted. It is susceptible to grey rot in Charente Maritime and black rot in Armagnac.
F. Baco also created Baco Noir, a thin skinned, early ripening, cold resistant, high-acid red grape, by crossing Folle Blanche and an unknown vitis riparia specie.
For this hybrid, F. Baco was awarded the Merite Agricole medal in 1910, and Legion d’Honneur in 1946, shortly before his death.
Both Baco varieties were imported to Ontario first by T.G. Bright’s winery in 1951 and since then the red version has been propagated from the original vines, and most likely acclimatized. It was quite popular in 1960’s to 1980’s, but now has fallen out of popularity, although there are still three Ontario wineries that produce Baco Noir, of which Henry of Pelham is the largest and most successfully winery.
Henry of Pelham planted its first Baco Noir in 1984, and producing the first varietal Baco Noir in 1988. Reserve level Baco Noir was introduced in 1995.
Henry of Pelham Reserve Baco Noir is made from grapes grown in the oldest blocks of vineyards, and aged for 14 – 18 months in American White Oak barrels, whereas the regular version ages only for six months. Occasionally Henry of Pelham’s winemaker Ron Giesebrecht blends in up to 15 per cent Merlot or Cabernet Franc to achieve textural and flavour balance.
is prolific, must be pruned severely to restrict production to 5 to 7 tons per hectare, if a deeply flavoured wine is the objective of the wine maker, climate of the growing season not withstanding.
Recently, Henry of Pelham staged a tasting of reserve Baco Noir vintages 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 (the last two being barrel samples) for the members of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada.
The 2007 offers cherry aromas, is medium-weight, acid-driven, with a long aftertaste. Recommended with beef or lamb stews, roasted root vegetables, aged hard cheeses, hamburgers, pot roasts. It contains 15 per cent Cabernet Franc.
1999 appealing mouth feel, depth, medium-weight, acid-driven. Pair with roast leg of lamb, beef Burgundy style, pizzas, antipasti, roast loin of pork.
2008 ripe stone fruit aromas, medium-weight, “juicy”, smoky, smooth with pleasant acidity.
On Ontario 2008, 2009, 2010 retail for $ 24.95 and are available at the winery stress, by mail order and in some stores that sell Vintages Wines.