Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Hybrids

There is a host of Hybrids out there. It sometimes seems as if there are as many as naturally occurring varieties although that is probably nowhere near the case. From all these attempts to improve characteristics, solve growing problems, avoid pests, infections diseases etc. only a few hybrids make successful wine.

Having said that, almost all naturally occurring Vinifera varieties are themselves the result of natural crossings. We read recently that all grape families would have consisted of both white and red examples plus all the shades in between (i.e gris, vert etc.). We still have Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir and all the Sauvignons but have lost Cabernet Blanc (pace “Cygne” which is claimed to be a naturally occurring white mutation of Cabernet Sauvignon discovered in Australia a few years ago), Syrah Blanc etc. Viticultural crosses of two varieties of vitis vinifera such as Pinotage are called intra-specific hybrids. We include here under the heading 'Hybrids' those whose conception by researchers and scientists are a matter of record. Probably all surviving varieties are intra-specific hybrids or natural crossings. The 'noble' Chardonnay is the product of Gouais Blanc and one of the Pinot family. In fact Gouais Blanc has been found to have been the mother of Aligoté, Aubin vert, Auxerrois, Bachet noir, Beaunoir, Dameron, Franc noir de la Haute Saône, Gamay blanc Gloriod, Gamay noir, Knipperlé, Melon, Peurion, Romorantin, Roublot and Sacy. These vitultural crosses occurred naturally but were propagated by growers with Chardonnay being the most popular in this particular family then as now.

Of the hybridised varieties, here are a few that have come close to acceptance:

Alicante Bouschet
Bacchus
Dornfelder
Durif (aka Petite Sirah)
Gamaret
Garanoir
Incrocio Manzoni
Irsai Oliver
Marselan
Müller Thurgau (aka Rivaner)
Pinotage
Saperavi Severny
Tarrango
Vidal
Zweigelt

and some promising ones;

Baco Noir
Blauburger
Caladoc
Chambourcin
Chasan
Cserszegi Fuszeres
Diolinoir
Dunkelfelder
Emerald Riesling
Faber
Huxelrebe
Johanniter
Madeleine Angevine
Niagara
Norton
Ortega
Regent
Reichensteiner
Rondo
Ruby Cabernet
Schoenburger
Seyval
Vignoles

Not a huge amount. As we have seen in the case of Argaman in our most recent blog, it sometimes depends on finding the best way to work with the hybrid. After all they haven’t had the benefit of centuries of trial and error in terms of where to plant, how to prune and train, when to pick and how to vinify. In Slotovino’s few vines of Triomphe d’Alsace in the Thames Valley we have finally made an (almost) drinkable wine by removing the juice from the lees as soon as possible, adding nothing except cultured yeast and bottling early without exposure to wood. The result is between red and rose in colour (a little darker than a chiaretto – definitely a red wine although very light), 10.5% alcohol, very tart (too much so for some) but with a taste of fruit (Ribena according to some). At least it avoids the bitterness of previous efforts (and some commercial examples) and we reckon best represents the modest contribution Triomphe d’Alsace has to make.

The following site is quite interesting for anyone wanting to know more about Hybrids and indeed classic vinifera varieties, synonyms etc.

THE SUPER GIGANTIC Y2K WINEGRAPE GLOSSARY
by Anthony J. Hawkins
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineguest/wgg.html

1 comment:

Peter F May for The Pinotage Club said...

The normal viticultural convention is to use the term 'hybrid' to refer to the result of crosses between different vine species and 'cross' for crosses between two varieties of vinifera.

Since hybrids rarely (many would say never) produce wine of the quality of vinifera, and few can make wine without the addition of sugar and or water so are more like fruit or country wines, its a useful distinction.

I understand that all grapes should be naturally red/black and that white/green grapes are mutations selected by man.

Reasoning is that grapes try to hide by their pale green colouring until their seeds are ready to grow when the grape turns dark red or black to attract attention and be eaten by birds and animals that will diffuse the seeds when they excrete.