Vititec, the trusted producer of high-quality grapevine plant material, hosted a tasting of the latest wine grape clones available to the South African wine industry at the Vinpro head office in Paarl.

This year, roughly 20 new and existing wine grape clones were tasted and judged by a group of winemakers, producers and selected media. The new and existing cultivars and clones include Grüner Veltliner, Vermentino and Macabeau.

Vititec produces between 50 and 60 experimental wines every year on small scale at Stellenbosch University.

According to Charles Visser, viticulturist at Vititec, the judging is done according to a special tasting card comprising important criteria, including quality and flavour intensity and whether it is typical of the cultivar. “The Chenin Blanc must taste like Chenin Blanc,” he says.

Introduction of clones 

Vititec established a clonal garden in 2017 at its head office in Paarl where roughly 255 young wine grape clones can be viewed.

The clonal garden creates an opportunity to introduce new wine grape clones and cultivars to the industry. “We continuously expand our gene pool of different grape varieties for producers and winemakers to choose from,” says Charles. He says it is also important to determine how well a cultivar thrives in certain regions.

Vititec works in close partnership with the Gen-Z Vineyard Project to plant wine grape clones in different regions. The Gen-Z Vineyard Project is an industry initiative co-ordinated by Vinpro’s viticultural consultation service. The project aims to transfer the latest technology, research and practices in the respective regions by establishing demo blocks and sharing the results with the industry.

Valuable feedback 

According to Charles, the clone tasting provides an opportunity for winemakers to indicate whether these wines have commercial value. It also offers the opportunity to evaluate specific clones and to determine whether industry experts believe the clone is suited to South Africa’s terroir.

“The feedback from the industry itself is vital and guides us. Although it’s a lengthy process from import to production, the interest in specific wine grape clones and cultivars provides a good indication of whether we should propagate the plant material,” says Charles.

The Grenache Noir, Vermentino and Marselan stood out during the tasting.

Independent viticulturist Marko Roux says the Grenache Noir clone 513 is particularly promising, as this variety ticks all the boxes viticulturally speaking and the grape makes a lovely wine. “It’s resistant to drought and wind, grows really well and produces good yields,” he says.

Marselan proved to be more resistant to diseases than Grenache Noir. “This would be interesting to plant on commercial scale,” says Conrad Schutte, manager of Vinpro’s viticultural consultation service.

He enjoyed the Pinot Noir clones that were tasted, saying that clone 943 could make an interesting contribution to the wines they are trying to produce in the Elgin region.

Vititec supplies more than 95% of the scion plant material and approximately 50% of the rootstock plant material to the South African wine industry. – Press release, Vinpro