Posts Tagged ‘genetic’

Sonoma's old vines.

Sonoma’s old vines.

 

In Sonoma’s Bedrock Vineyard, I’m surrounded by 124-year-old twisted vines with the arthritic look of stumpy bonsai trees.
The mad mix includes a couple of dozen varieties. Bedrock winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson points out familiar zinfandel, little-known bastardo, nearly extinct castets and some grapes no one’s yet identified.

He makes a pretty delicious red that contains almost all of them.

“Old vine field blends are the only California wines that aren’t ersatz,” he says. “They’re unique. What’s magical is the sum of the parts.”

His dozen or so red and white cuvees from historic vineyards are among the state’s most fascinating wines, high on bold personality, with warmth, intensity, perfumed aromas and layers of flavor. Tasting them, I’m drinking California wine history.

While Sonoma has the largest concentration of old vineyards in the state, they’re in danger of disappearing.

Twain-Peterson, 32, is one of the people on a mission to save them.

In old tan shorts, grey shirt, and a three-day beard, he tours me around this vineyard he owns with his family, filling me in on its backstory. The founders, in 1854, were “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker and two-time shipwreck survivor and banker William “Tecumseh” Sherman, who later became famous Civil War generals.

After root-louse phylloxera wiped out the vines in the 1880s, mining magnate Sen. George Hearst, father of newspaperman William Randolph Hearst, splashed out part of his fortune from the Comstock
Read on …

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After an exhilarating first day at the Cape Wine 2012, Professor Alain Deloire from the Department of Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Stellenbosch, kicked off a fascinating seminar on “A passion for old vines”.

The beautiful and charm of old vines. (Image courtesy of Martin Redmond)

On a academic level an old vine could be defined as an old woody structure consisting of roots, a trunk and arms. The aspect that distinguished it as an old vine however, is the fact that such a vine is “full of memory”.

On a genetic level, the old organs on such a vine, are not only able to annually give birth to new leafs and berries, but miraculously also pass on its “memory” to these new organs.

It is this “memory’ that makes old vines so precious. In a sense, old vines will after years of being cultivated in a specific site, become at home that environment. They will adapt themselves to a specific climate, soil and people. This will then be stored in their “memory”.

European producers and even consumers have been aware of this for centuries and because of this a strong relationship exists between the perceived quality of a wine and the age of the vines. Older vines are simply seen as producing better quality wine and are equally true for both red and white varieties. This quality aspect is founded on the fact that an old vine has an established root system.

The European producers are also in the habit of isolating buds containing the “memory” when and where ever old vines are discovered. This genetic material are then used to transfer the “stored” memory to new vines.

In a country where vineyards are being planted for production “runs” off between 20 and 25 years only, such an approach to old vines asked for a serious mind-shift.

Can this be to tall an order and to big a dilemma for an industry so focused on just keeping the boat afloat on an ever changing global economic ocean?