Wines & Vines Home
   
 
Welcome Guest
LOGIN |  CREATE ACCOUNT
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 
 
07.31.2013  
 

Grape Growers Brace for Syrah Decline

Popular clones in British Columbia experience reduced vigor, leading growers to pull them out

 
by Peter Mitham
 
 
british columbia wine grape council
 
Winemakers Jeff Del Nin (from left), Lyndsay O'Rourke, Senka Tennant, Chris Tolley and Severine Pinte-Kosaka discuss the decline of Syrah vines with researcher Patrick Vuchot (right) during the recent B.C. Wine Grape Council meeting.
Penticton, B.C., Canada—Syrah, touted as a potential signature red grape for British Columbia’s Southern Okanagan, and a focus of presentations at this year’s British Columbia Wine Grape Council meeting, faces challenges.

More than 546 acres of Syrah grow in B.C., where it forms a cornerstone of Rhone-style wines and Australian-style Shiraz from producers across the province.

Vines at risk
But a large proportion of vines—perhaps as many as 200 acres—are at risk of being pulled out due to a genetic trait in two specific clones that causes the vines to decline and die.

“It’s really a genetic problem,” Dr. Patrick Vuchot, who oversees research and development activities as director of the Institut Rhodanien in Orange, France, told winemakers in response to a question from Howard Soon, the veteran winemaker at Andrew Peller Ltd.’s operations in the Okanagan, during the closing plenary session at the recent B.C. conference (see “British Columbia Winemakers Talk Tannin”).

The problem has been observed on grafted vines in British Columbia as well as own-rooted vines in Argentina, Vuchot explained.

“It prevents the sap to come back to the roots,” Vuchot said, noting that a key effect is to make vines less cold-hardy, more susceptible to winter damage and, ultimately, less productive.

“The vigor of the plant decreases every year. That’s why they don’t die straight away. It’s not a disease. They get less and less vigorous, and then more and more sensitive,” he said.

Worse, because it’s not a disease, there’s no cure. The only strategy for addressing the phenomenon is kind vine management that reduces stress on producing vines.

“Any factor that can increase the capacity of the vine to put reserves back into the roots is good,” Vuchot said. “And every technique that does the opposite will accelerate the death of the plant.”

Syrah clones targeted
The worst news for B.C. growers is that the most susceptible clones of Syrah are the two on which the industry was established in the 1990s: clones 99 and 100.

“Those were the two clones that our industry was set up on here in British Columbia,” said Kevin Usher, the session moderator, and research scientist at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland, B.C.

John Simes, winemaker for Mission Hill Family Estate in West Kelwona, B.C., agreed, taking the microphone to explain that phytosanitary restrictions largely prevented growers from accessing other clones during the 1990s.

“They were the only clones that Agriculture Canada actually allowed into Canada back in the 1990s,” Simes said. “They thought there were all these viruses, and they were protecting us. Turns out these viruses were already here, but (clones) 99 and 100 were the only two that were approved—unless you went to the United States.”

The significant role of the clones is seen in the growth of acreage, and the Syrah crop.

Veteran industry writer John Schreiner relates in his book, “The Wineries of British Columbia,” that the Nichol family first planted Syrah at its property in Naramata, B.C., just north of Penticton, in 1991. The vines (1,350 of them) came from the Morisson-Couderc in Vogue, France.

By the end of the decade, that initial 1.33 acre planting had increased to 51.25 acres across the valley. In 2004, the Syrah acreage stood at 191 acres yielding 383 tons (or 4.85% of that year’s red grape harvest).

Syrah is now the fifth most-planted red grape in the province, with more than 546 acres planted and a harvest of 1,328 tons in 2012, representing 10.15% of the total red grape.

How bad things may get is another question, however.

“We haven’t seen any Syrah decline at Ruby Blues. Maybe the vines haven’t been stressed enough,” Lyndsay O’Rourke, winemaker at Ruby Blues Winery in Naramata, told the meeting. “The vines are old enough now, about 12 years old.”

Simes was less sanguine.

“From what I’ve seen from our own vineyards...if you’ve got 99 and 100, you’re going to end up pulling it out sooner or later. It’s just a matter of time before it becomes unproductive,” he said.

Expanded options
The good news is that alternative clones are available now, although supplies have been tight for the past two years.

Simes has planted some blocks with clone 877, while Vuchot said three to four other clones may be suitable for conditions in B.C. These include clones 470, 524 and 747, which have “very low” mortality. Clone 471 is also decent, but quality is an issue. Similarly, 747 tends to have low yields, while 470 and 524 are too productive.

Vuchot said that the use of new clones, and a greater understanding of vine decline, should mean newer vineyards won’t see the problem. There are now also tests to identify genetic markers pointing to the potential for vines to enter decline, something that didn’t exist in the 1990s.

“The problem of decline is behind us, because now we know the origi n, and we know that we should not plant these clones and we’ll reuse other clones,” he said. “We have a genetic marker that could predict the sensitivity of a clone of Syrah to decline; it’s not 100% sure, but if you have this marker you are sure you will have problems.”

Of course, no solution is perfect, and Vuchot noted that the absence of a known genetic marker for decline isn’t a guarantee of vine reliability.

“If it’s not present, it doesn’t mean you will be safe,” he said.

SHARE »
Close
LATEST READER COMMENTS
 
 
Posted on 08.01.2013 - 13:51:05 PST
 
“Any factor that can increase the capacity of the vine to put reserves back into the roots is good,” Vuchot said. “And every technique that does the opposite will accelerate the death of the plant.”
So, more roots will store more water, nutrients, reserves. If those roots are mycorrhizal, the root systems are many times the volume of non-mycorrhizal as well as disease resistant.
So, many years of proof of this technology, use it!

Read more at: http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?section=news&content=119898
Copyright © Wines & Vines
 
Bruce Coulthard
 
 
 
CURRENT NEWS INDEX »


 
Wines & Vines Home
 
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
info@winesandvines.com
Wine Industry Metrics
 
Off-Premise Sales » Month   12 Months  
June 2014 $562 million
5%
$7,549 million
6%
June 2013 $535 million $7,094 million
     
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
June 2014 $87 million
17%
$1,669 million
11%
June 2013 $74 million $1,510 million
     
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
June 2014 300
34%
220
21%
June 2013 224 182
     
 
MORE » Released on 07.15.2014
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wines & Vines
Packaging Conference
 
Learn More »
 
 

Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
 
Search the PWV archive »
 
 

Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
2014
 
Download full report »
 
 

CALENDAR
  • July 30 - August 1
     
    Indy International Wine Competition
     
  • August 1-3
     
    West of West Festival
     
  • August 2
     
    Urban Wine Xperience
     
  • August 5
     
    Fresno State Grape Day
     
  • MORE »
 

READER COMMENTS
 
Article: Wineries May Lose Internet Domain Dispute »
 
All these arguments could be levied by any industry associated with any gTLD, new or...
Reader: Doug Barnett
 
Article: Wineries May Lose Internet Domain Dispute »
 
Do brands get hijacked now? Even though .wine does not yet exist, are there false...
Reader: Larry Chandler
 
Article: Resistant Weeds Threaten Vineyards »
 
Roundup is not benign. It does not always break down in a day or two...
Reader: Robert Rex
 
Article: Resistant Weeds Threaten Vineyards »
 
Mitigating water use in the vineyard in the first place is also an applicable tactic....
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Resistant Weeds Threaten Vineyards »
 
Having managed vineyards that have used both approaches, I would say that a diverse approach...
Reader: Guest
 
 


Directory/Buyer's Guide — Your Wine Industry Marketplace
 
 
WINERY SEARCH
 
 
Advanced Search »
SUPPLIER SEARCH
   by Product
 by Company Name or Brand
 
Browse by Category »
2014 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
 
 
EXPANDED ONLINE SEARCH INCLUDED WITH PURCHASE
 
ORDER NOW »
 
LEARN MORE »
 
 
Wines & Vines Magazine
 
 
LEARN MORE »
 
SUBSCRIBE »
 
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
 
LEARN MORE »
 
ORDER NOW »
 
 
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
 
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
 
FREE LIVE DEMO »
 
VIEW VIDEO »
 
 
 
 
Latest Job Listings
 Envolve Winery Is Hiri...
 Sonoma, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Hospitality Representa...
 Rutherford, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Sales And Merchandisin...
 Los Angeles West, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Sales Representative (...
 Manhattan, NY
Sales and Marketing
 Harvest Vineyard/Winer...
 Napa, CA
Winemaking and Production
 Central Texas Regional...
 Austin, TX
Sales and Marketing
 Houston Area Regional ...
 Houston, TX
Sales and Marketing
 Credit And Customer Se...
 New-York, NY
General Administration and
 Sales Executive
 Flexible, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Central Regional Sales...
 Chicago, IL
Sales and Marketing
 
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:
 
 





Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
 
 
Copyright © 2001-2014 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.