Winegrowers Supplies - Vine variety information
Seyval or Seyval blanc (originally known as Seyve-Villard 5.276)
Mother: Seibel 5656
An old white disease-resistant hybrid, known now as a Piwi variety.
Year of breeding: after 1919 (developed between 1920 and 1928)
Year of entry into the German Federal Office's Varieties Register: not
Wine Character - colour: clear yellow
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.
Time of bud-burst: middle (2 to 4 days before Pinot noir)
Strength of growth: moderate; upright, short internodes, thick leaves.
Leaf: - size: fairly
- shape: orbicular, small pointed teeth
Grape bunch: - size: medium (to large), cylindrical
Time of veraison: in UK it is middle-late (not 'early'
as it is in USA or France)
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
Normal stem height:
Winter Pruning: eyes/buds per sq. metre of land occupied by the plant.
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:-
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:-
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.