New grapes for old??

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Roger O
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New grapes for old??

Post by Roger O » Wed 19 Jan 2011 17:57

New grapes needed to keep wine flowing
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12209801
The future of wine-making depends on developing new varieties of grape,
scientists say - and maps of the grape genome can help provide them.

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john
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Post by john » Thu 20 Jan 2011 09:16

I too read this ,Rog,and I must say that my first reaction was ,"isn't that what they've been doing anyway for years?".

Aren't a lot of grape varieties hybrids,bred in the same way that they do with other fruit (eg apples),tulips, trees etc ?

They do make reference to cross breeding,complaining that it can take up to 4 yrs to get a good result,but it's a system that's worked well,and,as the Santiagos of this world will no doubt tell us,in any case ,good viticulture is not something that you can rush anyway !

As an amateur onlooker,it seems that this is meddling in nature just for the sake of it,or at best,for someone to make a quick buck.

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Santiago
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Post by Santiago » Thu 20 Jan 2011 14:26

A lot of the grapes used to make wines are crosses between other vitis vinifera grapes, for example Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Pinotage is a cross of Pinot noir and Cinsault.

They tried to make hybrids (crossing two different species) of vines to give vitis vinifera vines (all the grapes we like to drink) disease resistance to powdery mildew by crossing it with native american vines. There are quite a few around in the States e.g. Concord & Catawba and one in Britain, Seyval blanc. They are more resistant to fungal attack but the wine they make isn't as nice tasting. In the US they are mainly used for grape juice and jelly.

For centuries vignerons have "cloned" vines to propogate the "best" features and today we nearly always plant grafted shoots rather than seeds. Genetic Engineering perhaps holds the key to isolating the genes that give disease resistance and putting them into vitis vinifera could give us, for example, a Merlot that is resistant to Powdery Mildew.

However, even though this move could remove the need for spraying any form of fungicide, the organic and environmental lobbies are very much anti GE. Why is that?

Partly it's because they don't really understand what GE means, partly they don't want to open the door to making GE vines which increase yields or make the farmer dependent on another agro-chemical products and partly because removing the risk of disease also removes the need for organic producers to use organically-certified sprays and then "organic" wines would lose their Unique Selling Point.
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