Hybrids Planted in Champagne

After receiving approval in 2022, the first vineyards of the hybrid variety Voltis are being planted. The trial remains with restrictions.

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For the first time, PIWI grape varieties are being planted in Champagne (Photo: Hesam Wide Shot/stock.adobe.com)
For the first time, PIWI grape varieties are being planted in Champagne (Photo: Hesam Wide Shot/stock.adobe.com)

For the first time, plantings of the white hybrid variety, Voltis, have begun in Champagne, as reported by French media sources. In total, an area of approximately 5 hectares (about 12 acres) are expected to be planted this year, with approximately half in Montagne de Reims, as reported by Alexandre Rat, a winemaker in Sermiers and one of the first to plant the new variety.

The grape variety, which is said to be resistant to both powdery and downy mildew, was permitted at the end of 2022 for experimental purposes in the AOP Champagne by the Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité (INAO). Voltis is a French hybrid that emerged from the crossing of Villaris and VRH3159-2-12. It may, however, take several years until the first bottles are released to the market.

Restrictions in place

The use of hybrids is still regulated. In order to limit changes in the character of the Champagne, Voltis should not make up more than 5% of the grape varieties of any producer and no more than 10% of a blend. In this regard, the winemakers have signed agreements with the INAO and the administrative organization ODG and committed to providing the industry association Comité Champagne with grapes or must from Voltis and neighboring plots. These grapes are intended to be used for the evaluation of the profile of the wines in their respective terroirs.

Still in the experimental phase

Voltis has now entered an experimental phase which is supposed to last 10 years. In 2033, the INAO will decide whether it will be included in the specification of the AOC Champagne, whether the trials will continue - or whether they will be discontinued. 

Hybrid grape varieties created by a marriage of Vitis Vinifera and non- Vitis Vinifera are increasingly referred to as PIWIs. Critics claim they produce lesser quality wines.

They can, however, be winter hardy, require less warmth and sunlight, enabling viticulture in marginal climates. Additionally, their thicker skins and higher disease resistance require less spraying and fewer pesticides, making them an option for environmentally conscious growers. ITP


In a world apparently tiring of experts, there is at least one in the viticultural sphere that we should be grateful for. In 2020, research led by Andrew Walker, a geneticist and professor of viticulture and enology at UC Davis, led to the release of five new grape varieties. They have some advantages in common. Sarah Philips McCartan reports.

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