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article imageGene study aims to improve wine quality

By Tim Sandle     Jun 14, 2013 in Food
A study of grapevine berries grown in different Italian vineyards has identified the genes that help the plants best against environmental change. This could lead to improved wine production.
One of the complexities of wine making is that grapes ripen unevenly, affecting the quality of wine from place to place and from vintage to vintage (vintage wine is one made from grapes that were all, or primarily, grown and harvested in a single specified year).
To look at this further a science study was conducted. For this Silvia Dal Santo from the Plant Genetics Lab headed by Mario Pezzotti of the University of Verona, Italy grew a single grapevine clone (Vitis vinifera, cultivar Corvina) in eleven very different vineyards across the Verona region. They then harvested berries at various stages of ripening, across three consecutive years. The scientists then used genetic techniques to study what was happening inside the grapes.
From this DNA study, the researchers were able to identify various environmentally-sensitive genes thought to influence berry quality. This included the phenolic compounds which contribute to taste, color and 'mouth-feel' of wine. This group of chemicals includes flavonoids, and this group includes the anthocyanins and tannins which contribute to the color and crisp taste of the wine. Taste is also affected by wine alcohol and pH.
The implications of the research is that it should help to identify and subsequently breed grapevine varieties better suited to climate change and improve berry and wine quality.
The findings have been published in the science journal Genome Biology.
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