jamie goode's wine blog: Ampelography: Gouais Blanc is Chardonnay's mum

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ampelography: Gouais Blanc is Chardonnay's mum

A paper published today has shown that the lowly variety Gouais Blanc is the mother of some very important grape varieties, including Chardonnay and Gamay Noir.

The paper (A banned variety was the mother of several major wine grapes; Harriet V. Hunt, Matthew C. Lawes, Mim A. Bower, John W. Haeger and Christopher J. Howe; Biology Letters) is freely available on the net if you are interested.

The fact that crosses between Gouais Blanc and Pinot Noir resulted in a number of varieties from eastern France has been known for a while. Back in 1999, a paper by John Bowers and colleagues in leading journal Science showed that this cross has resulted in the following varieties:

Aligote, Aubin vert, Auxerrois, Bachet noir, Beaunoir, Chardonnay, Dameron, Franc noir de la Haute Saöne, Gamay blanc, Gloriod, Gamay noir, Knipperle, Melon, Peurion, Romorantin, Roublot and Sacy.

The significance of the new paper is that it identifies which variety (Gouais or Pinot) provided the pollen (the father) and which was the mother vine in each of the crosses (or, at least, the 12 that were studied). The authors addressed this by examining the chloroplast DNA.

Chloroplasts are like mitochondria in that both of these organelles contain their own DNA. All your mitochondria were inherited from your mother; in the grape vine, in addition to maternal inheritance of mitochondria, there is maternal inheritance of chloroplasts, all of which come from the maternal side.

This means that the way the cross occurs matters. The characteristics of the mother are a little more important than those of the father. And, interestingly, the lesser grape in the crossing, the reviled Gouais, is the mother in most of these crossings.

Gouais is the mother for: Aligoté, Auxerrois, Bachet, Chardonnay, Franc noir, Gamay noir, Melon, Romorantin and Sacy.

Pinot is the mother for: Aubin vert, Knipperlé and Roublot.



At 11:01 PM, Anonymous Martin Moran MW said...

Gouais pops up in Australia in places more often than you'd think. I remember Chambers in Rutherglen have some. Doesn't taste of muchas I recall.

But just read on BBC that spurs 3-0 win against city is their 18th in 25 prem league meetings. Worse is 1 win in 10 for city in league. Yossa's a gonna. Wonder how much Mourinho would cost from inter.

At 8:35 AM, Anonymous Wink Lorch said...

I first heard about Gouais Blanc when I attended a lecture given by the Swiss-based ampelographer Jose Vouillamoz who was discussing the parentage of several Alpine varieties and Gouais was cited several times. At the time, he said that Gouais is known by ampelographers as "the Casanova of the grape world".

Vouillamoz, incidentally, is working with Jancis Robinson on a completely new version of her Grape Variety book and I note that a search on Jancis' site for Gouais reveals lots of references already.

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous andyincayman said...

I read about this int eh newspaper yesterday. Although not specfically stated the article implied that Gouais was basically vilified as a means of social enginerring (the peasents grew Gouais whilst the rich grew other varieties). Whilst this may be true I also thought that they were implying that Gouais could make fine wine.

Now I have not tried any Gouais wine but if it pops up in Austrailia quite often and if it was possible to make fine wine from it, I think the australians would have done so.

My conclusion from this was that athough very interesting about the parentage of other varieties, genealogy is like a great blended wine where the sum of the parts is greater then the individual base wine on its own.

At 12:56 PM, Anonymous Wink Lorch said...

Since my earlier comment, Jose Vouillamoz has written his own take about this 'news' (no news, he says) on Jancis' site - you can find it at http://snipurl.com/tqauo

At 11:52 AM, Blogger Peter F May for The Pinotage Club said...

Indeed Gouais is made as a varietal by Chambers.

"“We have two rows of Gouais,” said winemaker and six-generation owner Stephen Chambers. “We received a whole load of different varieties from France in the 1800's,” he told me. “They were all planted out and we kept growing those that did well here.”

From my site at http://www.winelabels.org/varietao.htm#gouais - where there is a label image


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