Chardonnay and Gouais Blanc
The Murky Past
Ah, the French and their wine. Chablis can only be made from
Chardonnay grapes. Wines
must be created from the noble varieties, proven over centuries
to grow perfectly in This Exact Spot of ground. Gouais Blanc?
Hah! That reject from the grape-line was banned completely in France.
Or was it?
Dr. Carole Meredith has been doing Grape DNA Research for
many years at the University of California at Davis. In a study her group publishes
tomorrow in Science, she found that the noble Chardonnay,
the elegant Gamay Noir, and many other classic grapes traced their parentage
to a cross of Pinot and ... you guessed it ... the infamous Gouais Blanc.
The Bad Seed|
According to the Associated Press, Dr. Meredith commented, "It is shocking
that all of those varieties did spring from the same two parents, and ...
that one of the parents is a mediocre grape with such a bad reputation
that it was abandoned."
What a marvel of modern science. The same techniques that proved wayward
fathers were responsible for
children, and that linked suspects to horrific crimes, now has linked the mighty
Chardonnay to a grape vine once hunted down and destroyed.
Gouais blanc would be proud to see where her daughter ended up!
The Truth is Revealed
I asked Dr. Meredith how this had happened, and what the relationship
was of the varous descendant grapes. She replied, "They are the
direct children (i.e., not grandchildren or great-grandchildren, etc.).
In each case there was a cross-pollination between a Pinot vine and a
Gouais blanc vine and from the seed that developed a single seedling
sprung up in a vineyard somewhere. A farmer took a liking to it and
multiplied it by cuttings. That happened independently for each of the
16. And each has been maintained ever since by cuttings, as have Pinot
and Gouais blanc."
Lisa Shea: Was there a particular grape you were following
back for this research, or were you doing a general study?
Dr. Meredith: It was general. We had been accumulating DNA fingerprints
of a number of winegrape varieties to use as references for identification
work we were doing to verify the identity of winegrapes in California.
Since we knew the information we were accumulating could tell us about
genetic relationships, we decided to look. We expanded our group of
varieties to include some quite obscure ones that we thought might have
been important in the past. And that's how we found the Pinot - Gouais
Lisa Shea: I've worked in biotechs for many years, so
I'm vastly interested to see the same technology being used in wine research!
Dr. Meredith: Yes--it's pretty much the same methodology. Grapes and humans
aren't all that different in that regard.
And what is this Gouais Blanc? The Gouais blanc grape is believed to have
been brought from Croatia into France by the Romans. Here it was so despised
that even its name comes from a derogatory term. Ah, revenge is sweet.
If it could, Gouais Blanc would be laughing now!
The Many Children of Gouais Blanc
Franc noir de la Haute Saône
Gamay blanc Gloriod
Wine Myths Information
Wine History Information