Around the World with 25 Wines

Photo credit:  El País
Photo credit: El País

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“Wine’s moment has arrived,” comments a bystander in the Liceo of Barcleona, and so it has.  The Catalonian winemaker Sumarroca chose this grand theater as a venue at which to introduce La Vinya del Món (Wines of the World), a research project that will help to preserve varieties of wine grapes in danger of disappearing.  Bodeques Sumarroca has been working closely with the University Rovira i Virgili of Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain, to study 360 varieties of vitis from around the world.

“Today we will sample 25 of those varieties,” announces Carles Sumarroca.  The cultivars were grown on 13,500 square meters (some 16 square yards) of the Sumarroca vineyard in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Catalonia.  Since 1999, Sumarroca has researched and selected varieties of grapes from around the world, nursed the vines, and developed the growing protocols.  The careful process of selection and cultivation reaped its first harvest in 2002.

Wines of the World planted 10 vines of cultivars from each of 25 countries.  Researchers selected the finest of these grapes, and those best adapted to the climate and soil, and produced 80 wines: 40 whites and 40 reds.

“We work on a small scale.  Most of the cultivars adapted well to Penedés (the region of Catalonia where the experimental vineyards were planted) and the wines seem to possess a Mediterranean character although they are not native to this area,” explains Oscar Llomart, technical director of Sumarroca.  “Now we want to move on to larger-scale experiments, and we will use DNA to keep track of each variety.  The database created can be added to those being generated at other research institutes.”

Over the centuries, according to Sumarroca, “ampelography (the science of grape variety identification and classification) has been perfected, but the system for organizing the data on the thousands of species, varieties and clones planted around the world has been complicated and imprecise.  Today, however, the DNA for each vitis can be clearly differentiated for each variety, leaving no room for confusion.”  These DNA databases allow growers to identify each variety and avoid repeats “as it is quite possible that one experimental field will contain identical plants with different names, based on their denomination of origin.”  For example, the Tempranillo grape, can have different names depending on where it is grown, even though it is often the same variety.  Ull de llebre, in Catalonia, Cencibel in La Mancha, Tinta del país or Tinto fino in Ribera del Duero, and Tinta de toro in Toro, are all, in fact, Tempranillo.
El Pais  Barcelona May 13 2013
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