Saturday, March 26, 2016

Dr. Olmo, Rubired, and Mega Purple - Part 1

When we think of the giants of the California wine industry, we tend to think of the "front men", the stars of the industry; the winemakers, winery owners, and perhaps the writers who make it all understandable for the rest of us.  If we dig a little bit deeper we get to the pioneers who stood at junctures in industry history and through their individual impact, changed the future of wine in America.  Dr. Harold Olmo, U. C. Davis viticulturist, was one of those pioneers, a modern one whose lifespan overlaps most of ours.  

During Dr. Olmo's almost fifty year career he traveled the world studying grape types and advising natives of far-flung corners of the world as to what they should be planting where.  He studied ancient and obscure vines in the Middle East and cataloged clonal varieties of popular commercial grapes here.  Many cuttings from around the world ended up being rooted in his U. C. Davis quarantine area for further study.  Along with thirty grapevine hybrid creations now called Olmo grapes, Dr. Olmo is directly responsible for the popularizing of the Chardonnay clone that makes most of the popular styled California Chardonnay today.

In 1958 Dr. Olmo created Rubired, a Teinturier cross of Alicante Ganzin and Tinta Cao, two varieties that are themselves the result of crossing grape types.  Teinturier grapes have a red pulp.  Most red (and white) wine grapes have a clear pulp. Wine color is derived almost exclusively from the grape skins.  Teinturier grapes are considered to be too tannic for wine making but work well for making food colorings and dyes.  Rubired was cultivated as a high yielding hot climate grape thought to be potentially useful in a port-styled blend.

Mega Purple is the commercial name for a grape concentrate marketed by Constellation, one of the largest wine companies in the world.  The grape juice that makes the concentrate is Rubired.    

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