Winegrowers Supplies -  Vine variety information

Seyval or Seyval blanc (originally known as Seyve-Villard 5.276)

Mother: Seibel 5656
Father: Seibel 4986 (Rayon d'Or)

An old white disease-resistant hybrid, known now as a Piwi variety.

Year of breeding: after 1919 (developed between 1920 and 1928)
Country of origin: in the Drome in southern France
Breeder/License holder: Seyve-Villard (bred by Bertille Seyve or his son in law Victor Villard)
Number of clones: none registered but like all old varieties it may have developed many  variations over the generations.

Year of entry into the German Federal Office's Varieties Register: not permitted.
Area planted in England: it has been grown in England since 1945.
It is also planted in Switzerland, USA, Canada and Brazil. Interest was rekindled in the late 1980s when there was a resurgence in the search for disease-resistant hybrid varieties.

Wine Character - colour: clear yellow
                      - bouquet: a little etheric (like Rayon d'Or)
                      - palate: neutral, slight citrus and minerals
                            reminiscent of a mild Chasselas especially when young.

Winemaking: In the UK its main use is for Sparkling Wine, whole bunch pressing is advantageous. Adding gelatine to the must can have positive benefits. There is a tendency to early oxidation so the ageing potential is limited.
IN USA, when harvested at optimal maturity, the wines have attractive grassy, hay, and melon aromas. The body tends to be thin, and malolactic fermentation and barrel fermentation / oak aging are used to enhance quality.

        

Time of bud-burst: middle (2 to 4 days before Pinot noir)

Strength of growth: moderate; upright, short internodes, thick leaves.
                            Shoot is glabrous, ribbed, reddish
Growing tip: downy, white with rose margin
Growth of side-shoots: 

Leaf: - size:  fairly small                           - shape: orbicular, small pointed teeth
        - colour: slightly bronze when young
        - surface: smooth, folded, shiny, contorted
        - petiolar sinus: overlapping edges    - petioles and veins are lightly cobwebby

Flowering time: 
Flowering strength: very high (little coulure)

Grape bunch: - size: medium (to large), cylindrical
                    - density: too tight for use as a table grape
                      there are often 3 or 4 bunches on a shoot
Berries:        - size: quite small                - shape: round
                   - skin colour: golden yellow, dull bloom, firm

Time of veraison: in UK it is middle-late (not 'early' as it is in USA or France)
Time of harvest: late; so should not be planted in late-ripening sites

Grape yield: potentially very high (3 kgm per square metre and more) but variable depending on soil and climate conditions; for good quality wines the yield should be not more than 1.5 kgm per square metre
Must-weight: 
Must-acidity: medium-high

Wood ripening: 
Winter hardiness: medium to hardy
Wood colour: 

Chlorosis resistance: 
Susceptibility to - Oidium: very low             - Peronospora: low
                       - Botrytis: low to middle (it is subject to botrytis at maturity)
                       - Roter Brenner: 
                       - Phomopsis:                     - Stem-atrophy: 

Preferred soil: 
Suitable rootstocks: preferably 5BB (or SO4)

Normal stem height: 
Normal row spacing: 
Vine spacing in the row: 

Winter Pruning:       eyes/buds per sq. metre of land occupied by the plant.
    Poor fruit set if pruned too short and over cropping if pruned too long.

Advantages: a disease-resistant variety, robust, easy to grow, low susceptibility to Peronospora.

Disadvantages: should not be planted in late-ripening sites.


What is "true Seyval blanc" ?

In June 2009, Stephen Skelton reported:-
 "A client of mine who bought vines purporting to be Seyval blanc (Seyve-Villard 5/276) has asked for my advice as they do not appear to be the same as the Seyval blanc he has been growing for some years. I have now inspected these vines and can report that they are NOT Seyval blanc and as the accompanying photographs show, differ in several ways:-

  • The growing tip is quite noticeably downy and shows almost white against the much greener Seyval blanc tip.
  • The leaf is more sharply serrated, although still fairly similar.
  • The inflorescence (flower truss) is quite different to that of Seyval, much bigger and with a bigger wing or shoulder and is later to flower.
  • It is also later than Seyval and does not ripen as well."

 

These vines, which Stephen claims are "not true Seyval blanc" and "NOT Seyval blanc", were planted in England in 2006 or 2007, and had been imported from a major German vine nursery; Kimmig Schwarz at D-67271 Obersülzen.


From Pierre Galet's 'A Practical Ampelography' - Grapevine Identification:-
       

the great French ampelographer wrote: the Seyval blanc growing tip is "downy, white with rose margin", and young leaves are shiny and slightly bronze. This description is exactly like Stephen's photos of the "not true Seyval blanc".

Stephen has not provided photos of what he claims is "true Seyval blanc" but here are some Seyval photos I have, showing the "much greener Seyval blanc tip":-

    

This leaf shape is like Galet's pictures above; however, it is definitely not like his description of the growing tip and young leaves.

So how can this be explained?

In November 1987, in the English Vineyards Association's magazine The Grape Press, Stephen Skelton advertised:-

"For some while now, I have been concerned about the reliability of Seyval Blanc plants entering the country, especially as vine producers in the other Common Market countries are officially only allowed to produce this hybrid variety for export. During the summer I paid a visit to Geisenheim, to see Professor Becker, and together with his help, the help of Geisenheim's principal rootstock producer in southern France, and ONIVINS the organisation in France responsible for keeping a register of vineyards and vine varieties, have located a small vineyard of Seyval Blanc which we have inspected and found to be suitable. Cuttings from this vineyard will be taken and grafted on to suitable rootstocks.".

In January 1988 Stephen Skelton advertised:-
"There are still a few first-class Seyval Blanc vines available....
... I am also taking orders for Spring 1989 for guaranteed "Super Seyval" ....".

Unfortunately Stephen didn't specify what was different about these Super Seyval, so it is difficult to judge whether they are "true Seyval blanc".

I would say that "true Seyval blanc" are Galet's Seyval blanc whose growing tip is "downy, white with rose margin", and young leaves are shiny and slightly bronze. But that is not to say that Stephen's 'green growing tip' plants are not Seyval. Old varieties develop variations over the generations, and that is a likely explanation for the above differences. The 'green growing tip' vines could be an early ripening clone of Seyval, or maybe a mutation.

Seyval mutates very easily, in 1987/88 Philip Smalley at Holton Vineyard near Wincanton had a Seyval vine that suddenly mutated to double in size, it had started with half of the shoots mutating and in the following year the whole plant had transformed. Philip measured one leaf as 27cm long and 25cm across. When I saw it on 21 August, 1988, the very dark green leaves 'looked like rhubarb' (in size) and there were 5 or 6 bunches on each shoot! Philip said it was much earlier flowering/setting than his other Seyval, but because of the huge crop it ripened later. We intended propogating from the wood but unfortunately never did.

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