Critics who praise the “complexity” of red Burgundy and Champagne are on target. A team of French and Italian researchers has mapped the genome of the Pinot Noir grape, used to make bubbly and many red wines from France’s Burgundy region and around the world… and it has about 30,000 genes in its DNA.
That’s more than the human genome, which contains some 20,000 to 25,000 genes.
According to Associated Press, the team published its findings in the most recent issue of the journal Nature, saying it identified the nearly half a billion chemical building blocks of the grape’s DNA. Certain sequences of these building blocks form genes, like letters spelling words.
These discoveries won’t make any immediate difference to wine drinkers worldwide. Pinot Noir is the first grape – and first fruit – ever genetically mapped, and it would take years to apply this new knowledge to today’s vines. But down the line, it could possibly lead to grape varieties that are more resistant to bugs and disease.
The team said its research had confirmed that the grape has an unusually high number of genes whose job it is to create flavor. More than 100 of its genes are dedicated to producing tannins and terpenes – compared to about 50 for other plants, said researcher Patrick Wincker.
He said the mapping of those flavor-producing genes could be a first step toward developing new flavors in wine by allowing scientists to breed different varieties to create precise new flavors.
But flavor also depends on external factors such as weather, microclimate, soil, size of the crop, age of the vines and the winemaker’s art. So, no matter how scientific grape production becomes, Mother Nature will never surrender her critical role.