Mark Aselstine
 
June 27, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Grape Clones

Within the fine wine industry there has been some talk of late about clones (specifically when it comes to Pinot Noir) and how they affect growing conditions and the wine which ends up in our glass.

While we understand that for the average member of our wine clubs, clones don’t matter, we thought it would be worth a brief mention in this space.

To start-what is a clone? Unlike Dolly the sheep, a grape clone is simply a grape vine with at least one preferably trait to other vines in the vineyard. That is usually something very simple such as having bud break slightly earlier (or later) or having berries which are somewhat larger. Really it could be any trait which the vineyard owner or winemaker finds helpful.

According to the University of California Davis viticulture department, clones are so incredibly close genetically to the other vines in the vineyard that they are virtually indistinguishable. When UC Davis researchers performed genetic tests on some of the most famous clones in Napa Valley (which they now keep disease free plantings of in their own vineyards, just in case) and found only a few small differences when patterning the genome out to fifty million places.

What does it all mean? From producer to producer, we think there are a wide selection of traits which affect the finalized wine much more than the specific clone which has been selected for the vineyard. Winemaking style, facility and yeasts in our estimation all have more affect on the wine than does a slight genetic difference.

For the average wine drinker, simply put I don’t think clones matter.  

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