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What a difference a clone makes

An interesting article I found on Australian grape clone trials. For once, quality not quantity seems to be the main concern. Potentially raises ethical issues in terms of species modification, however an interesting read:

“Clonal trials” may sound like science fiction but in reality they’re a big part of Australia’s maturing fine wine story. An exciting one too! Winemakers and viticulturists embrace new grapevine options with the same anticipation as artists view an expanded colour palette.

Each clone has distinct traits – in much the same way as a cherry tomato is different from a roma or beefsteak – and the potential is enormous. As Kim Chalmers, Director of Chalmers Wines, says: “Because Australian vineyard sites have a wide range of regional variation in aspect, elevation, climate and soil conditions there are potentially a multitude of varieties or clones which could be perfectly matched to those sites to create unique and complex wines.”

It’s not a quick business (Australia’s strict quarantine rules mean it can take 10 years from sourcing new material to producing the first crop) and, in the past, limitations in clonal variation have frustrated those wanting to achieve the best results. But things have changed in recent years thanks to the commitment of a number of leading nurseries, and a new range of clones is bringing great results and a massive jump in quality.

Chalmers Nurseries imported 70 new Mediterranean varieties and clones in 1998 and over the next decade collected more than a million cuttings and propagated 700,000 grafted vines from them. “Our commitment to experimentation and innovation is central to the Australian wine industry being able to maintain and regain markets as well as forge new ones in the years to come,” Kim says.

Nick Dry, viticulturist with Yalumba Nursery, is just as enthusiastic, and believes the importation of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir ‘Bernard’ clones from a program in Burgundy was a key to the development of these grape varieties in Australia.

“These clones were selected based on quality rather than yield and we are finding that their use has greatly enhanced wine quality and allowed our winemakers to more readily achieve the wine styles they aspire to create, both at the mainstream and fine wine levels,” Nick says.

“Since 2004 Yalumba Nursery has imported another 30 selections from Burgundy and we believe that each of these new clones has the potential to enhance wine quality, particularly with varieties where clonal diversity is currently limited such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo and Pinot Gris.”

*excerpt sourced from Wine Australia



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