Adaption of Lesser-Known Wine Grape Cultivars to Climatic Features of the Snake River Valley American Viticultural Area
Horticultural Crops Research
Project Number: 5358-21000-041-22
Start Date: Apr 01, 2010
End Date: Sep 30, 2012
The market for wine grapes is increasingly global. A large share of this global market is based upon a few specific cultivars that consumers know and associate with high quality, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Riesling. Production of these global cultivars has increased in pace with a recent increase in world production of grapes and, in some cases, has resulted in an oversupply. The recent market saturation of global cultivars has stimulated interest in exotic, new products (varietal wines) in order to expand or maintain markets. Global predominance of a few major cultivars is undesirable also for ecological reasons because it reduces the genetic diversity of wine grapes under commercial production and leaves the industry vulnerable to threat from a potentially lethal insect or pathogen. There is great potential for minor cultivars from old world production regions to produce wines in the U.S. that are superior to their place of origin and these cultivars may be well adapted to newly emerging grape production areas, such as the Snake River Valley in Idaho. Little information is currently available about the performance of lesser-known, exotic cultivars in wine grape growing regions of the U.S. Research is particularly needed on the performance of exotic cultivars under the limitations and advantages of growing conditions in the U.S. which are most likely unique from the conditions in their region of origin. Traditional methods of evaluating cultivar performance are costly because site-specific conditions influence results and limit their applicability to a narrow geographic range. The objectives of this project are to identify lesser-known wine grape cultivars from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and France, that are well-adapted to the climatic features of the Snake River Valley American Viticultural Area; to integrate performance data from the Idaho field trial site; and to provide a graduate student with a training opportunity.
The adaptation of lesser-known cultivars to climatic conditions in the Snake River Valley will be accomplished by evaluating the viticultural performance of 18 lesser-known cultivars planted in a randomized, block design with six replications at a trial established in a commercial vineyard in Southwestern Idaho. A graduate student will be recruited through a cooperator at Boise State University who will collect, analyze and report viticultural performance data. The trial will be established and data will be collected following protocols established by the multi-state NE 1020 Coordinated Wine Grape Cultivar Evaluation project. Viticultural performance data will be interpreted relative to two “global” cultivars planted as reference standards in the Idaho site as well as trial locations in other states. The trial site in Idaho will estimate cultivar adaptation to high elevation desert. The proposed evaluation scheme enhances resource-efficiency because trial results will be applicable over a range of climatic conditions, providing useful information for existing as well as newly emerging wine grape production sites.