An almost extinct white grape variety, Gouais, has recently been causing excitement among wine geeks. DNA testing has revealed that Gouais has a most important role as a parent of many of today’s famous varieties.
Gouais is the parent of many prestigious varieties.
It has been said that Gouais has an affinity for Pinot Noir; cross pollination of Gouais and Pinot Noir has at various times in the past produced Beaujolais’s Gamay and the two white Burgundy vines Chardonnay and Aligote as well as half a dozen lesser known varieties
But Gouais didn’t remain true to Pinot Noir. It crossed with other varieties to create Riesling and Columbard, as well as the rare Champagne grape Petite Meslier.
According to Wikipedia, Gouais is now extinct in France except for examples in a vine bank in Montpelier and can be found growing only in Switzerland.
To that add Australia, as I found to my surprise when I called into Chambers Rosewood Vineyards in Rutherglen, Victoria. Rutherglen as a whole, and Chambers in particular, are famed for fortified wines, both for sherry and port style and especially for luscious dessert wines made from Muscadelle and Muscat.
Chambers also make table wines from familiar varieties as well as lesser known ones such as Chasselas, Mondeuse, Cinsault and Durif. And they make a varietal Gouais. “We have two rows of Gouais,” said winemaker and six-generation owner Stephen Chambers. “We received a whole load of different varieties from France in the 1800’s,” he told me. “They were all planted out and we kept growing those that did well here.”
I tasted the 2002 and 2003 Chambers Gouais, the first at the winery, the latter with dinner.
Medium dark yellow colour,
Subdued nose with a hint of lime-peel.
Lychees, quite acidic and some tannins. There’s an oily mouth feel, and it has a clean crisp dry finish. I was concerned about the colour and though it was possibly a bit oxidised.
Knowing the ties to both Riesling & Chardonnay, one can make a connection - the mouthfeel of Riesling with some Chardonnay character.
It is not possible to make a generalisation about a grape variety by tasting just one example wine. This particular example was a quite simple, crisp dry wine and not one I’d go back for. I would however love to taste a more recent vintage from this producer and any other examples.