What Makes the Bacchus Grape Special?
Most wine enthusiasts will already be familiar with Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and intoxication. Bacchus, also known as early Scheurebe or Geilweilerhof, is one of Germany’s newest varietals that has come a long way in recent years. First bred in the Palatinate in the 1930s, it is a beautiful cross between Riesling X Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau. We will go through what makes this grape variety unique, how it relates to the god of wine, and how to enjoy this wine best.
Bacchus’ history and origin
The Bacchus grape variety originated at the Geilweilerhof Institute for Vine Breeding in Siebeldingen. In 1933, two German agronomists, Peter Morio and Bernhard Husfeld, successfully bred a cross between the green Silvaner and the white Riesling with Müller-Thurgau. In 1972, their creation was included in Germany’s variety list. As a result, the early-ripening grape variety became particularly valued by winemakers in the United Kingdom and Germany due to its early maturity and the Bacchus established itself as a new go-to breed.
Bacchus, a friend of cooler places
In contrast to Pinot Noir, Bacchus is an early-ripening grape variety. It reaches very high maturity levels and can, thus, be grown in cooler climates that would be unsuitable for many other grapes, including Riesling. Soils characterized by clay, loess, marl, and volcanic rock constitute the ideal territory for the cultivation of Bacchus.
Under ideal conditions, the grape variety can produce high yields with low grape weights. That being said, the grape variety does not tolerate cold soils or water-logging well. Bacchus berries are also highly susceptible to sunburn and excessive sun exposure will hurt ripening. Furthermore, the variety is particularly susceptible to botrytis, a mold that causes rotting and renders the wine undrinkable.
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The Bacchus vine is particularly popular in England. It is the third most-grown wine in the country, after Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. British wineries cultivate Bacchus on nine percent of the total area dedicated to viticulture. Switzerland has smaller cultivation areas as well.
Bacchus flavor is aromatic and fruity
Bacchus wines are full-bodied and flavorful. Although the grape variety ripens early, it also accumulates a significant amount of sugar. Therefore, choosing the appropriate harvest time is crucial for a fresh, dry result. If the wine is aged dry, as is the custom nowadays, it is distinguished by its youthful character.
The wines are aromatic and fruity, but only when the vine is fully mature. The wines have low acidity, which is why they are frequently blended with Müller-Thurgau. Bacchus can also produce extract-rich white wines that are typically light yellow in color. The wines range in intensity from light to medium. The Bacchus wine has a personality that matches its name – as a refreshing variety, it is an ideal choice for social gatherings.
A perfect pairing
Bacchus is frequently used as a wine to accompany food because the grape variety tastes quite fruity. It complements both spicy and sweet dishes due to its fine flavor nuances. It is frequently served with pastries or desserts but also pairs well with Asian and spicy dishes, such as stir-fry and noodles.
Fun facts about Bacchus
- It is named after the Roman God of Wine.
- It is a white German cross of Silvaner x Riesling x Müller-Thurgau.
- Chapel Down, an English winemaker, was the first to produce orange wine from Bacchus.
Key dates in Bacchus’ history
1933: Bacchus was created at the Geilweilerhof Institute for Grape Breeding in 1933.
2018: Bacchus is now the fourth most planted grape in England and Wales, trailing only the three main “Champagne” grapes, with around 200ha planted by 2018.
Want to read more about Wine? Try reading these books!
- Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours. Jancis Robinson 2012
- Wine. Years. People. Events. Massandra Wine Collection 2010
- The World Atlas of Wine: 8th Edition. Johnson, H & Robinson, J. 2019