Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Features Production Research
New white wine varieties developed for the Maritimes

developed for the Maritimes


March 12, 2008
By Dan Woolley

Topics

The Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre’s grape breeding program has scored a viticultural varietal victory.

grapes
An example of selection 94-1.  Contributed photo

The Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre’s grape breeding program has scored a viticultural varietal victory.

After more than 20 years of research and fields trials, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) fruit breeder Dr. Andrew Jamieson has recently selected six new white grape cultivars that show promise for Eastern Canada’s grape growers and wine makers. With the completion of the cultivars’ development at AFHRC in Kentville, N.S., plus Annapolis Valley field trials, the new vines are receiving further scrutiny by vineyard operators and vintners in other areas of the Maritimes and in Quebec.

Advertisment

Dr. Jamieson’s field trials began with 40 different grape varieties with 50 per cent of the tested seedlings being red. Eventually, almost all of the selections he made for advanced trials were white.

According to Dr. Jamieson, the red varieties he examined were of no higher quality than existing red vines, such as Marechal Foch, an industry staple in Nova Scotia vineyards. He concluded his research with six all-white crossbreds, which made good wine and grew well in Atlantic Canada’s short season climate.

drjamieson
After more than 20 years of research and fields trials, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) fruit breeder Dr. Andrew Jamieson has recently selected six new white grape cultivars that show promise for Eastern Canada’s grape growers and wine makers. Contributed photo 

“The general rule of thumb is cooler areas do better with white wine,” says Dr. Jamieson.

In his last five years of grape breeding, Dr. Jamieson has gathered data on the winter hardiness, season of maturity, yield, disease resistance and accumulation of sugars in all of his grape crosses.

Following the 2004 harvest, 26 crosses were fermented into wine. In 2005, another 26 varieties, some repeated from 2004, were also made into wine. A taste-testing panel at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., sampled wine from both vintages.

Bruce Ewert, the vintner with L’Acadie Vineyards in the Gaspereau Valley, fermented the grapes for the sensory panel’s examination.

“When we had Bruce Ewert come on the scene, we finally had an experienced wine maker that we could work with to make good wines,” recalls Dr. Jamieson.

He also received help from sensory scientist Katharine Sandford, plus sponsorships from the National Research Council, the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture, the Grape Growers’ Association of Nova Scotia and the Winery Association of Nova Scotia.

The past
The Kentville research station originally started grape trials in 1913 with the planting of the first vine. In the more than 90 years since then, the station has tested in excess of 200 grape varieties and attempted its first grape breeding in 1953. After several promising French hybrids – including Marechal Foch and De Chaunac – appeared, Kentville’s grape breeding ceased, says Dr. Jamieson.

In 1983, AFHRC restarted the grape-breeding program in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, with urging from the Grape Growers’ Association of Nova Scotia. The program was looking for early-maturing, winter-hardy varieties suitable for Atlantic Canada. Most of the crosses examined originated from Seyval, L’Acadie, Ortega, Siegerrebe and St. Pepin. These same varieties provide the bulk of genetic input for Dr. Jamieson’s six new varietals.

L’Acadie was developed at Ontario’s Vineland Research Station in 1953 and underwent field trials in Atlantic Canada in the 1980s and 1990s. It is now the most
popular in the Nova Scotia wine industry, says Dr. Jamieson.

St. Pepin was bred in Wisconsin and, like L’Acadie, is winter-hardy. It is also related to Seyval, another varietal cultivated in Nova Scotia.

The German hybrids Ortega and Siegerrebe provide “a very flowery, spicy kind of aroma,” according to Dr. Jamieson. They are related to Gewurztraminer and ripen early. Unfortunately, they have no winter-hardiness, so they aren’t widely grown in Nova Scotia.

Industry help
During local testing of the six new varietals, Dr. Jamieson received assistance from Walter and Ralf Wuhrer, who grew the trial vines in their North Kingston, N.S., vineyard. Their contributions “of land and time could have been used for more lucrative endeavours,” said Dr. Jamieson.

Walter Wuhrer, a charter member of the Grape Growers’ Association of Nova Scotia, says the association was very interested in the Kentville research centre trials and the development of varietals that would do well in the Annapolis Valley climate.

After volunteering for the trials, Wuhrer planted 40 different selections in his vineyard over seven years. It was from these plantings that Dr. Jamieson ultimately selected the six different varietals he made.

“If people are interested and the wineries buy these grapes, there will be more planted,” predicts Wuhrer. He adds there is one variety – the 96-2 – that he plans to “keep for myself.”

“It grows upright, is very easy to manage, produces large bunches of fruit and it ripens very early. We can harvest it at 21 Brix in mid-September.”

The selection 96-2 is a cross between Siegerrebe and St. Pepin, and is very winter-hardy and fairly disease resistant to various mildews. It has a very spicy flavour reminiscent of Siegerrebe and Muscat, and could sell well as a table or juice grape, he says.

Walter feels that if one or two commercially acceptable varieties can be developed from the six finalists, the trials will have been a “great benefit” for all Nova Scotia grape growers.