Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cabernet Sauvignon and Its Parents (and Grandparents)

All European wine grapes are the same species ie. Vitis vinifera.
It is widely conceded that this cultivated species came from the wild race subspecies Vitis sylvestris found over southern Europe and western Asia.
The different varieties we are familiar with today are a result of centuries or probably millennia of natural cross pollination.
Many wine grapes are also the result man made crosses even to the point of crossing different wine grape species.
Up until recently is was not possible to tell what the origin of the current wine grape varieties were.
But with DNA profiling  the puzzle is slowly being unravelled.
It is estimated there are over 10,000 grape varieties with around 1500 being used for wine production. Only a small percentage have been genetically analyzed.
I have spent the day in the Cabernet Sauvignon block, green pruning, spraying, mowing and net mending.
I got to wondering where this variety, which is the classic Bordeaux red wine grape, came from and did some research.

 Surprisingly it turns out that Cabernet Sauvignon is not so old.
It was a chance crossing between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc in a French vineyard some time during the 17th century.
Cabernet Franc is a very old variety and is said to be selected from wild vines.
Sauvignon Blanc on the other hand is a natural cross of Traminer and Chenin Blanc.
Traminer is one of the oldest European varieties and is said to be selected from wild vines.
Chenin Blanc is indigenous to the Loire Valley (Anjou), France and is reputed to have been in that area at least since the 9th century.
So there you have it.
Many countries are researching and developing hybrids. Our CSIRO already have a few in the field and in production eg. Tarrango (Touriga Nacional x Sultana) and Taminga ( a cross of a previously created crossing Merbein 29-56 and Traminer).
And the natural evolution also continues outside the realm of hybridization. Two different coloured Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are indigenous to Australia.
A chance discovery of pinky bronze fruit on a Cabernet Sauvignon vine in 1977 provided Cleggett Wines the opportunity to propagate this single cane cutting (called a sport in horticultural terms) at their Langhorne Creek (South Australia) vineyard.
This Bronze Cabernet Sauvignon grape is registered as Malian.
Several years later in 1991 through the same process of nature a White Cabernet Sauvignon grape was identified and subsequently registered as Shalistin.

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