Vineyard sustainability can be more than a reductionist practice of removing off-farm inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers, or adding biodiversity to the ecosystem. It can also change the fundamental nature of grapevine cultivars that are used to make wine, for example, by adopting hybrid varieties that are tolerant to diseases or other biotic or abiotic challenges in the vineyard, much in the same way rootstocks function in viticulture.
Valentin Blattner works at the research station for ecology and grape breeding is based in Soyhieres, a village in the Jura region in the Jurassic mountains in Switzerland near Basel, and for 30 years has been breeding new selections of grapes.
Growers in Oregon will likely not be familiar with names like Petit Milo, Epicure, Amiel, Cabernet Blanc, Cabernet Jura and Cabernet Libre, but these are hybrid varieties that are in commercial production in other wine regions around the world.
The main focus is disease resistance to peronosphora, but also oidium, botrytis, anthracnose and black-rot. Cold resistance is also a goal of the breeding program. The breeding material includes amurensis and riparia, which give a lot of disease resistance but also a very good cold hardiness. Another focus is tropical varieties like muscadinia and caribea, which bring interesting genes for disease resistance, but need to be made more cold hardy. The goal is to breed super resistant grapes that produce top quality wines.
Paul Troop is a wine grower at Salt Spring Vineyards and Winery in the Wine Islands (Vancouver Island) of British Columbia. He imported and introduced Blattner varieties to the area and commercial wines of very high quality have been produced. The varieties have proven to be highly disease resistant and cold tolerant.
Mr. Blattner and Mr. Troop will present a hybrid grape workshop on Tuesday, 22 August from 1:30 to 3:00 PM at the OSU Yamhill County Extension Office in McMinnville. They will discuss grapevine breeding and the practical use of hybrids in high quality wine production regions. They will also have Blattner varieties of wine to taste and discuss.
We hope this meeting may initiate a discussion in Oregon about the practical value of hybrids in the context of a sustainable wine industry.
The workshop is free but registration is required.
Who: Valentin Blattner and Paul Troop
Date: Tuesday, August 22nd
Time: 1:30 to 3 PM
Where: OSU Yamhill County Extension auditorium at 2050 NE Lafayette Ave, McMinnville