Bring up the subject of human cloning, and prepare yourself for a spirited ethics debate.
But when the topic turns to grapevine cloning, the mood can become downright romantic. Matching the right clone to the right vineyard site can make all the difference between a vintner’s ability to craft a world-class wine, and the introduction of the next iteration of “2-Buck Chuck.”
“In viticulture, a clone refers to a vine variety that is selected for specific qualities, which result from natural mutations,” explains Anthony Bell of Bell Wine Cellars in Yountville, Calif., a champion of Clone 6 Cabernet Sauvignon. “Cuttings are made from an original ‘mother vine’ that exhibits key characteristics, such as resistance to certain diseases or desired cluster size, taste, smell, etc.”
What does it take for a vine to be considered a distinct clone?
“The plant must possess a characteristic making it different from its parent plant, even if the difference is slight,” Bell explains. “Larger or smaller fruit, size/yield, disease resistance, fruit maturation rate, fruit color and aroma are all good examples of qualities that growers or winemakers may wish to isolate and develop further.”
“Keep in mind that differences between clones of the same variety are much smaller than differences between grape varieties, but sometimes the difference can be important,” Bell adds.
For example, the Chicago Tribune recently featured a list of Pinot Noir clones, and the aroma-and-flavor spectrum that each exhibits…
- Pommard: earth, dried mushroom, cherry pie.
- 2A (a.k.a. Wadenswil): cherry, raspberry, rose petal.
- 113: plum, cherry, raspberry, cedar.
- 114: pomegranate, blueberry, mineral, cola, spice.
- 115: rose petal, red cherry, black raspberry, leather, anise.
- 667: dark cherry, strawberry, black tea, warm earth, Christmas spice.
- 777: black cherry, cassis, blackberry, licorice, leather, tobacco.
Depending on the style of wine a vintner wishes to make, he or she may mix and match specific clones, which also exhibit specific tannin and texture qualities.