Wineries everywhere are faced with a multitude of problems, ranging from genetics modification to excessive yields, huge wine inventories, and declining prices.
Genetic modification to North Americans is an overused journalistic topic, but to Europeans it is something worth eradicating from the minds and deeds of scientists.
Burgundians seem to be particularly incensed, and 24 of the most reputable wineries got together (a rarity in itself) to sign an agreement attempting to ban all efforts with respect to genetic modification of vines. Also included in the declaration are the following:
- 1. Yeasts capable of secreting enzymes, antibacterial agents and compounds to increase varietal character.
- 2. Leaf-roll resistant rootstock (leaf roll is a fatal vine disease)
- 3. Oidium, viral – and other disease resistant grape species
As yet, there is no talk to come up with a rootstock capable of resisting the dreaded phylloxera vastatrix.
Burgundians and for that matter all French viticulturalists, have always been close to the land, and want to preserve well-founded traditions and taste profiles of their best food and beverage. After all, Burgundians grow successfully the most sensitive grape in the world – Pinot Noir.
They made a terrible mistake in 1970’s and 1980’s following the advice
Of academics to abandon to abandon their old Pinot Noir clones in favour of newly developed high-yielding ones, while supposedly safeguarding quality and flavour.
In the following years they learned a very costly lesson. Demand for their world-famous wines declined every year and they had to reduce prices to unload huge inventories.
They were also advised (again by academics) to use newly developed anti rot sprays to ward off rot at harvest time; this proved expensive and ineffective.
Intensive application of fungicides and herbicides has rendered Burgundian soil almost sterile.
After 15 years, the best vignerons and winemakers realized the madness presented to them as “ progress. Viticulturally and spiritually Catholic monks and nuns created Burgundy, and even today the inhabitants of this hollowed land feel a strong tug from across centuries.
Frances other viti- and viniculturists heeded Burgundians’ advice and created an organization called terre et vin du monde which pleads to all wine enthusiasts and wineries to stop “progressive“ techniques for one decade.
More research is needed to establish beyond the shadow of a doubt whether all laboratory-created advances can improve quality.
Huge “ wine organizations “ try constantly to contain costs and increase sales, often to the detriment of taste, texture and colour of wine.
There is already a surplus of wine worldwide and declining consumption in many countries. Wine enthusiasts everywhere seem to be consuming less, but better, and they are becoming more knowledgeable about quality.
In this instance it seems to be prudent, at least in world-famous regions, to increase quality standards than yields.
France’s vignerons seem to be on the right track and the world’s wine enthusiasts should give them the benefit of the doubt and support their cause.
We all may end up better for it.