Identifying Grape Varieties

When you next visit a vineyard, you will expect your guide (perhaps the winemaker, the viticulturist or cellar door manager) to distinguish between sections of the vineyard. Yet you may be impressed at how your guide is able to tell which rows of vines contain certain varieties of grapes, when all the vines look the same to you. Surely he/she could not have memorised and mapped out in his/her mind each and every rows of vines and their varieties?

Indeed, to the trained eye, a quick look at the leaf shape enables identification of grape varieties. Each variety has a uniquely different shaped leaf, leaf size and feature. The task of identifying varieties was achieved by ampelographers Viala and Vermorel. They listed 5000 separated varieties. Today, DNA ‘fingerprinting’ has enabled the more accurate tracing of a variety’s parents. For example, the Zinfandel is now confirmed be related to an Italian variety the Primitivo from the South of Italy.

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