New grape varieties needed to keep wine flowing

on 18/01/11 at 11:31 am

Wine

The future of wine-making depends on developing new varieties of grape, scientists say – and maps of the grape genome can help provide them.

Disease is a constant issue for growers; but new regulations are likely to curb the use of chemical treatments.

US researchers have made genome maps of more than 1,000 vine samples.

Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), they say this type of data plots the way to disease-resistant grape varieties.

The grape varieties whose wine we like to drink – merlot, chardonnay, semillon, riesling and the rest – have mainly been developed from one species, Vitis vinifera vinifera.

It was probably “domesticated” about 5,000 years ago, in or close to what is now Turkey.

Since then, it has become the staple for wine-making as far from its homeland as Australia, Chile, the US and South Africa.

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“Start Quote

We can’t just go on using the same cultivars for the next thousand years”

End Quote Sean Myles

Vinifera has been honed into hundreds of varieties, red and white; but the grapes are all still members of the same species, with limited cross-breeding between different varieties.

“The degree to which that was done seems to have been extremely limited,” said Sean Myles, lead author on the new study.

“Once we found good cultivars that were working for us, we adopted them and as a result they’re sitting ducks for pathogens,” he told BBC News.

Dr Myles is affiliated to Stanford University School of Medicine, but was based at Cornell University while this project was running.

{Full story via BBC}

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