Vititec, the trusted producer of high-quality vineyard plant material to the South African wine industry, hosted a wine tasting on 20 November of the latest available wine grape clones cultivated on a small scale by the Vititec team.

Lees dit in Afrikaans. 

A group of industry opinion formers, winemakers, producers and selected media attended the tasting where 30 cultivars were judged, ranging from alternative variations of well-known cultivars such as Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, to relatively new cultivars like Grachen, Arinarnoa and Assyrtiko.

“The importance of this tasting lies in the judging of these wines, the final and most important step of the clone selection and evaluation process,” says Charles Visser, viticulturist at Vititec. “The feedback from the tasters gives us a good indication of quality and consumer appeal. If the wine meets these requirements, we propagate the cultivars and clones and distribute it commercially.”

Vititec produces between 50 and 60 experimental wines every year from the latest wine grape clones and cultivars that have been imported and cultivated over a period of five to seven years. Clones are imported from France, Italy and Greece and undergo a process to eliminate harmful viruses if deemed necessary, after which they are propagated in the Paarl nucleus unit and make their way to the foundation blocks in Stellenbosch, Piketberg, Graafwater and Clanwilliam.

“These specific premises are selected away from commercial farms to prevent the risk of virus infection,” says Charles.

Edmund Lakey, technical officer at the University of Stellenbosch’s department of Viticulture and Oenology, makes the clonal wines on a small scale (close to 20 kg grapes per cultivar) from grapes that hail from these propagation blocks.

According to Charles, three criteria are of utmost importance during the Vititec clone tasting, namely the specific character of the wine (berry/cherry/plum/dry fruit, etc), the intensity of the character (from fairly undetectable to prominent), and the quality of the wine.

“We struggle with low acidity. It would be great if we could establish one clone that has a naturally high acidity,” said Rosa Kruger, independent viticulturist. “Assyrtiko (2566) has a place in South Africa because of this characteristic. I think a lot of consumers would love the Vermentino (856). It’s like most Italian men – sweet and seductive.”

Carl van der Merwe, chief executive and cellar master at DeMorgenzon also liked the freshness and linearity of the Assyrtiko. From the red wines that were tasted, Pinot Noir (943) and Carignan (274) showed promise. “There’s a freshness and liveliness in this Carignan,” he said.

 

Collaboration expands clone knowledge

Since 2007 Vititec has started to import more drought-resistant cultivars from the Mediterranean regions that will do well in the South African climate and terroir.

Vititec imports specific clones to expand the clone spectrum in the wine industry, as well as at the request of producers. A total of 30 clones were imported and propagated at the request of producers, of which five were tasted.

“By working closely with our clients – from the initial request and importing clones until the eventual establishment and harvesting of these new vineyards – we receive crucial information on how specific wine grape clones perform beyond Vititec’s foundation and mother blocks,” says Charles.

This approach underlines Vititec’s important role as participant in the Gen-Z vineyard project, an industry initiative coordinated by Vinpro’s viticultural consultation service, with various industry stakeholders. The project aims to bring the latest technology, research and practices to the respective regions by establishing trial vineyard blocks and sharing the information through demonstrative days.

Vititec also recently established one of each of the ten available Chenin Blanc clones at Opstal Estate in the Slanghoek Valley, along with Vinpro specialists, as part of the Gen-Z project to compare the results in this region.

Demo blocks of 220 different wine grape clones can be viewed at Vititec and Vinpro’s head office in Paarl.

At the forefront

“At Vititec we set new global standards for plant material,” says Nico Spreeth, CEO of Vititec. “This tasting does not only aim to increase the clone and cultivar spectrum of the South African wine industry, but also ensures that we stay abreast of trends in the Southern Hemisphere.”

Vititec is an affiliate of the industry body Vinpro and based in Paarl, with premises in Vredendal and Grondves near Stellenbosch. The company focusses on virus elimination in vineyard plant material, as well as the development, propagation and supply of viticultural and oenological selected plant material in the form of grafted vines and vine plant material suitable for grafting.

Vititec delivers more than 95% of the scion plant material and nearly 50% of rootstock plant material to the South African wine industry. – Press release