Bountiful Baco Noir
Over the years, wine
critics have identified
Baco Noir as one of
the signature red grape varieties of the Hudson
Valley. The grape grows well in the Valley and makes
a wide range of quality wines. It can be made into
wines as diverse as Burgundian Pinot Noirs, Bordeauxlike
Cabernet Sauvignons, light young fall wines or
nouveaus, and even rosé.
It has deep color, lots of berry and plum fruit, and possesses high acid levels that stand up well to barbecued meats or other heavy dishes. Also, it has great aging potential.
Baco Noir is a French-American hybrid grape that was bred by François (some say Maurice) Baco. Monsieur Baco was a teacher from the town of Belus, Landes, Armagnac Province, France (south of Bordeaux). He lived from 1865 to 1947. The grape that we now call "Baco" was bred in 1902 and commercially released in 1910. It is the result of a cross-breeding of Folle Blanche (a traditional grape variety used to make brandies in Armagnac) crossed with a "Riperia" grape. The Riperia family of grapes, also known as "riverbank" or "riverside" grapes, are found along river banks in the eastern part of North America from southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico to the Rocky Mountains.
Over the course of M. Baco's career, he hybridized well over 5,000 grape crosses, but limited his designated named varieties to no more than six. Baco Noir is still grown to some extent in Burgundy and the Loire Valley, France, and in the eastern part of the United States. One of the reasons for highlighting this grape in the first issue of Hudson Valley Wine magazine is because many local wineries make Baco Noir and because it can be made into many different wine styles.
If Baco is left on its skins for more than seven days as it ferments, it can, with age, have many big Bordeauxlike qualities. It has robust and aromatic flavor elements such as cedar, tobacco, leather, and chocolate. It has complex fruit flavors of black and choke cherries, blackberries and prunes. Further, it can have herbal notes of black pepper, licorice, cinnamon, and eucalyptus. As it ages over five to fifteen years, Baco becomes a complex, full-bodied wine that accompanies red meats very well.
Baco can also be made into a slightly lighter style that is reminiscent of a Burgundian Pinot Noir. When made in this style, it has a rich nose whose fruits are reminiscent of raspberries, black raspberries, blueberries, cherries, and strawberry jam. The herbal notes remain, but include more muted flavors of lavender, black pepper, mint and licorice. I have had twenty- to thirtyyear- old Baco's that have truly reminded me of better red Burgundy and Bordeaux wines of the same age.
Articles are adapted from the forthcoming book “Grapes of the Hudson Valley” by J. Stephen Casscles. In future issues of Hudson Valley Wine Magazine, we’ll continue to feature additional excerpts from this definitive work on regional varietals culled from decades of the author’s tasting notes and personal experience. PHOTO: Randall Tagg Photography .