Vin de France & Grape Varieties


Encyclopedia of French Grape Varieties

{ White Wine }


This grape variety from southeastern France is a secondary variety used in blends of white wines from the southwestern Mediterranean coast, the Valence-Montelimar area, Diois and the area between Avignon and Aix.

Clairette typically has an apple and grapefruit aroma, complemented with hints of white flowers and occasional slightly musky notes.

Wines produced
Clairette is used to make wines with quite a high level of alcohol, and even sweet wines via passerillage (the French term for air-drying to increase sugar concentration) or over-ripening; its wines are relatively low in acid, and sometimes have a slightly hard, bitter aftertaste. This variety is also used to make sparkling wines. Its dry wines must be drunk young, however, as they oxidize easily.

Areas planted
It is grown as a secondary variety in southeastern France, i.e. between Valence and Montelimar, the region between Avignon and Aix and the area around Montpellier. Today, there are around only 2,600 hectares of Clairette planted in France.

Budding and ripening
Clairette is a late variety that needs time to produce high-quality grapes. It buds 8 days later than Chasselas, the benchmark variety. It is also a particularly slow ripening variety, reaching full ripeness 4 weeks after Chasselas, making Clairette a Period III variety.

A vigorous grape variety, Clairette requires short pruning and careful disbudding in order to curb its vegetative growth. It grows semi-upright, and its branches are moderately susceptible to the wind.

Preferred soils
Clairette’s best results are obtained on limestone soils that are largely infertile, thin, and dry. These soils are perfect for limiting its yield, which is a sign of quality.

Ideal Climate
This southern grape variety suited to warm, very sunny terroirs is highly resistant to drought. Because it ripens slowly, it is particularly well suited to hot, sunny regions. It requires good exposure to ripen fully.

Susceptibility to disease and pests
This variety is susceptible to grape berry moths and mites. Clairette is, however, relatively less susceptible to oidium and gray mold.

Mainly a wine grape, Clairette is also used as a table grape. It is also used in the production of brandies. 

Distinctive features
Clairette’s young leaves are yellow, and its young shoots are densely covered with flat-lying hairs. Its adult leaves are orbicular, i.e. circular, and have 5 lobes. The petiolar sinus, which is very straight, has overlapping lobes, with deep lateral sinuses. The sides of the teeth of the leaf blade are rectilinear and the veins in the leaf blade have slight to moderate reddish anthocyanic pigmentation. The leaf blade is slightly waffled, and wavy between the veins near the petiolar point. The underside of the leaf blade is densely covered with flat-lying hairs. When ripe, the stalks lignify. Clairette’s grapes and berries are medium-sized.

Clones marketed
The ten approved Clairette B clones are numbers 68, 69, 93, 94, 97, 98, 175, 207, 208 and 209. A conservatory of more than 130 clones was planted in spring 2007 in the Bellegarde (Gard) region.

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