Lesser known red wine cultivars (Part 2)

by | Feb 1, 2016 | Winetech Technical, Viticulture research

In this sequel about lesser known red cultivars that could possibly make a contribution to the South African wine industry (Van Schalkwyk & Schmidt, 2016), we look at Chambourcin, Regent and Yama Sémillon.

Chambourcin, Regent and Yama Sémillon are three lesser known red cultivars which offer good vinification and disease resistance qualities, the latter being conducive to a reduction of spraying cost against fungal diseases. These cultivars are currently being used at Nietvoorbij as cultivation parents with a view to cultivating disease resistant wine grape hybrids.


Chambourcin (Johannes Seyve 26.205) is a French-American interspecific hybrid (Seyve Villard 12-417 x Seibel 7053) (Galet, 1979). The cultivar offers good resistance to downy mildew, oidium and botrytis and was used to cultivate other disease resistant cultivars, such as for example Regent. For this very reason it is being planted throughout the world in regions with a high humidity especially. At Nietvoorbij in Stellenbosch this cultivar ripens midseason. Chambourcin is fertile and has reasonable vigour. Even though the bunches are fairly loose, they are well-filled. Coulure, and a degree of millerandage, with hard green berries, occur at times. Chambourcin yields (10 – 17 t/ha) are considerably higher than that of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Stellenbosch area. The yields were also higher than that of Shiraz and compared well to Pinotage yields.

The grapes have a good sugar/acid balance and pH. Although the skin colour appears intense, good colour extraction was not obtained during vinification in all years, consequently the wine colour was sometimes slightly too light for a good red wine. Experimental wines were well-balanced and had a moderately prominent spice and berry character. The wine displayed none of the wild hybrid tastes. Although this cultivar was intended for areas with high humidity, the results show that it also fares well in the Stellenbosch region. Overseas the cultivar is mostly used to make rosé, and as a blending cultivar, but in some instances also as a cultivar wine. Some overseas cellars recommend that Chambourcin be enjoyed as a young wine, while Chambourcin has also been reported to require a lengthy period in maturation barrels (7 – 15 years) to achieve its full aroma potential. Chambourcin is also suitable for cultivation in summer rainfall regions and has already been registered on the South African Varietal List for planting in South Africa (2014).


Regent (GF. 67-198-3) is a German red wine cultivar that was created by Prof Gerhardt Alleweldt from the Institute for Grape Cultivation in Geilweilerhof (www.winegrowers.info). It is a hybrid between Diana (Silvaner x Müller Thurgau) and Chambourcin. Regent should not be confused with Regal Seedless, which was also originally registered as Regent at Upov and is a table grape. There was some confusion when the registration was submitted, because it had not been ascertained that the name Regent had already been registered for a wine grape cultivar. This was later rectified by registering the table grape “Regent” as Regal Seedless. The cultivar was mainly intended for cool climatic conditions and is planted in cool areas. It has moderate-strong vigour and an upright bearing. Regent is resistant to frost and also known for its resistance to most fungal diseases, such as downy mildew and oidium.

Yama Sémillon

Regent ripens fairly early, but not before Pinot Noir, as some overseas winemakers have claimed. The grapes achieved full ripeness mostly in the midseason. Although a fairly high degree of sunburn occurred during a heatwave in 2005, the other seasons saw hardly any sunburn damage. Regent has smallish, well-filled bunches and produces good yields. The berries have a thick skin with a dark red colour and reddish pulp. Although Regent wines had relatively low total acids and tended to be high in pH, the wines were well-balanced with a lovely dark purple-tinged colour and a prominent spice/berry aroma. Vegetative aromas such as green beans, cloves and also nutmeg were perceived on the palate. World-wide and in South Africa there is currently much interest in this cultivar, but there are breeding rights and it may only be grown under contract with the breeder or the institution where the cultivar was bred. Although Regent is mainly recommended for cool areas, a small planting has been established under contract in the Swartland to determine whether the cultivar will fare well in warm regions. These grapevines have yet to come into production.

Yama Sémillon

Yama Sémillon was created at the Yamanashi University in Japan. It is a hybrid between Sémillon and the wild Japanese grape, Yama Bodou (Vitis coignetiae) (Yamakawa, Y. & Tanaka, H., 1991). The cultivar was specially cultivated for the Japanese climate with its high humidity. Yama Sémillon is quite resistant to downy mildew, oidium, botrytis rot and berry burst. Its growth is vigorous and upright with huge leaves that are prone to damage by strong winds, which subsequently results in a fair amount of sunburn damage. A fair amount of coulure occurs at times. The bunches are loose, long and skittle shaped, with average weight and fairly small berries. Yama Sémillon is quite fertile and produces higher yields than most of the red cultivars in the Stellenbosch area. Yields of 7 to 9 kg per grapevine have been obtained in some seasons.

Yama Sémillon tends to have high titratable acid. In one particular season the must analysis during the harvest showed a sugar of 28°B and the wine had a total acid of 7.2 g/ℓ with a pH of 3.45. Although the skins are not very dark in colour and the analytical wine colour was not intense either, the tasting panel that evaluated the wines indicated that the colour was fairly intense. Yama Sémillon produces complex wines and has a prominent tree fruit/berry and spice character. Sometimes it has a distinct vegetative character (herbal, green beans, eucalyptus and asparagus). Yama Sémillon with its good resistance to diseases is eminently suitable for cultivation in cool, moist climatic regions.


Chambourcin, Regent and Yama Sémillon may make a lesser or greater contribution to current South African red wine cultivation. All three these cultivars have good disease resistant characteristics that should reduce spraying costs. Chambourcin is already being grown in certain areas and there are no breeding rights on the cultivar. Regent and Yama Sémillon should be planted on a semi-commercial basis in different climatic regions so that their potential can be properly evaluated. While there are no breeding rights on Yama Sémillon, they do apply to Regent, as mentioned earlier. Breeding rights on Regent only expire in 2024; it will therefore be necessary to negotiate with the nursery to establish bigger plantings under contract.

In Part 3 we look at a number of white cultivars that could possibly make a contribution to the expansion of the South African wine spectrum.


Galet, P., 1979. A practical ampelography: Grapevine identification. French and American hybrid direct producers. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York and London, 165 – 166.

South African Varietal List as maintained by the Registrar of Plant Improvement. Fruit crops, November 2014. Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries.

Winegrowers supplies – Vine varieties information. Regent. www.winegrowers.info.

Yamakawa, Y. & Tanaka, H., 1991. Characterization of hybrid new red-wine grape cultivar “Yama Sémillon” (Japanese Wild Grape x Sémillon). Journal of Institute Enology and Viticulture, Yamanashi University 26, 27 – 34.

– For more information, contact Danie van Schalkwyk at vschalkwykd@arc.agric.za.

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