We just read an article about the pinot family of grapes and how an unstable genome was responsible for all of the pinot varieties around today. Supposedly because Pinot Noir is a thousand years old, over that amount of time it has spawned Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Meunier, which are all commonly used today, and other types including an early ripening variety called Pinot Noir Precoce and a red fleshed Pinot Teinturier.
This isn't exactly breaking news for us. A single pinot grapevine may show several different colored bunches hanging from the same branch which is evidence of mutations in real time. Such is reality for this most intriguing of grape types.
We may have started this post with the wrong example though when you consider the Muscat (Moscato) variety. Moscato is even older than Pinot Noir and may be responsible for the creation of 200 muscat varieties although DNA testing is showing some are probably unrelated. Nonetheless Muscat Alexandria, Muscat Canelli, Muscat Ottonel, Black Muscat, and others can all co-exist on the shelves of your neighborhood wine shop at the same time many other muscat table grapes reside in the produce section of the local grocery store.
So how does this mutation business happen? A quick google search reveals that mutations occur when "a gene is damaged in such a way as to alter the genetic message carried by that gene" and that change is permanent.
Since we don't have a scientific bone in our body, let's segue this discussion into changes in the wine industry itself to see where the mutations are there. Wine may have had its beginnings in something like a hollow log before pottery was invented back in 6,000 BC, give or take a thousand years. That wine was most likely either white or rose since those grapes were squeezed by hands (or feet) and let's be honest, the stuff probably didn't taste very good. Manual presses enabled wine makers to extract flavors and color from grape skins and they appeared around 2000 BC. With industrialization came machinery to really extract the good stuff and recently with information technology have come all kinds of inventions to perfect the best possible outcomes for winemakers so the everyday wines of today are qualitatively better than they were just fifty years ago. Given the long history of wine on earth you might say the red wines we enjoy today are a very recent mutation in the long history of wine making.
Please join us after 5pm on Thursday the 6th of September when Dustin Whiten leads us in a tasting of everyday European reds and white. Then one week later join us as former sommelier Erik Schmitt presents a tasting of Willakenzie Oregon wines.