• Dona Stewart

Going Home to Georgia - Biodiversity and the Future of Wine

Nearly all wine produced today comes from one species of grape, Vitis vinifera, first domesticated from wild vines around 3500–3000 BC in the Caucasus region. Today Georgia has 48,000 ha (125,000 acres) under vine in 12 wine regions, with production highly concentrated in the far eastern Kakheti region. White wine, from grapes such as the Rkatsiteli, account for the majority of production. Saperavi, a teinturier grape with high tannins, is the dominant red varietal.

Increasing cultivar diversity is long-term climate change adaptation strategy for the wine industry. The approach includes selection of grape varieties with greater resilience to drought and heat or phenology (timing of key developmental stages such as bud burst) this is better suited to higher temperatures.

A recent study by a team of scientists from the University of Milan, Caucasus International University and the National Wine Agency of Georgia examined the potential climate change mitigation traits of Georgian grapes. They were found to have resistance to pathogens that cause diseases such as powdery and downy mildew. The late ripening of Georgian varietals suggest they may be better able to withstand the abiotic stresses, including sunburn, than varietals such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The authors recommend further investigating these traits and their potential for viticulture breeding programs. Georgia has actively preserved its wild genetic grapevines, with more than 100 unique samples available in Georgia, Italy and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Clonal Germplasm Repository in California.

Check out the Organization and Climate Research sections of this website for more information!

By Lebowskyclone - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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