Grolleau (or Grolleau Noir) is a red wine grape varietal grown primarily in the Loire Valley of France. The name icomes from an old French word ‘grolle’, meaning ‘crow’ and said to relate to the leaves of the vine which resemble that of a crows feathers. The grape is typically used to produce rosé wine, particularly in the Anjou region. Grolleau can also make low-alcohol red wines which are fruit driven and very food friendly.
In the Anjou appellation for red wines - Grolleau Noir has a maximum permitted amount of 10%. This is the reason why several produces make wines classified as ‘Vin de France’, because they use 100% Grolleau and hence do not need to follow the rules of the AOP. The first documented plantings of Grolleau occurred in 'Charente' in the early 19th century.

 

Recent DNA testing shows the grape is likely related to the ancient varietal Gouais Blanc. The greatest success of the Grolleau varietal was in the mid-to-late 20th century. With the widespread consumption of Rosé d'Anjou wine, of which Grolleau was the key component. Often blended with Gamay, Grolleau-based Rosé d'Anjou was a sweet wine.
Towards the turn of the 21st century, Rosé d'Anjou and by relation Grolleau, started to fall out of favour in lieu of the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon dominated rosé Cabernet d'Anjou. As of 2006, there was only a little over 2400 hectares of vines scattered throughout the Loire Valley.
The Grolleau vine is found mostly in the Loire region where it is a permitted grape varietal for the rosé Appellation d'Origine Protégée (AOP) of Anjou, Touraine and Saumur AOP. The grape is limited to just rosé wines and is not permitted by AOP regulations for red blends these regions. It is also permitted as an ingredient in the sparkling wines of the Crémant de Loire, Anjou AOP and Saumur AOP.
Grolleau is a high yielding grapevine that ripens reliably and relatively early for the cool climate Loire Valley - typically right after Gamay, producing medium-sized bunches. The vine tends to bud early which renders it susceptible to damage from spring frosts. Its long branches make its susceptible to wind damage, requiring it be planted in sheltered areas. Grolleau is sensitive to several grape diseases including Eutypa (dead-arm) and stem rot.
The wines produced are known to being quite neutral, having markedly high acidity levels and a touch of sweetness to balance it out. It is also quite often blended with Gamay to produce various early drinking wines.
The grapes are typically thin skinned with few phenolics, but after veraison they produce colours ranging from grey to blue/black depending on the clone. There are currently 5 clones of the Grolleau authorized for viticulture in France. Grolleau produces light bodied, often made in off-dry to medium sweet style, leaving some sugar to balance the wines acidity.
Grolleau (a.k.a. Groslot) is the third most planted red grape varietal after; Cabernet Franc and Gamay. Grolleau is also used to make dry rosé wines such as the 'Rosé de Loire'. As when yields are controlled it can make charming rosé wines as well as an early drinking style red wine - enjoy.