Genetic Diversification of Bordeaux

There is something new going on at Château Lynch Bages. Actually, it started in 2005 and has been developing ever since. This innovative Château has adopted ‘selection massal’ for their replanting. Since the 1960s and 70s the replanting in Bordeaux has been done using the ‘clonal’ method in which vines are cloned from a single original vine. Each plant has the same DNA and promotes uniformity. Currently the majority of plantations use the clonal method with nursery-supplied clones. Château Lynch Bages believes that replanting in this manner results in the vineyard losing its identity.

In 2005 they began replanting with the Massal selection technique. This involves selecting only the very best vines from the vineyard and then generating new vines from that budwood. Château Lynch Bages began by taking the best from their oldest vines. To stimulate and perpetuate the diversity from the original vineyard, they took cuttings from vines that had been planted more than 50 years ago.

It is thought that by taking only the best cuttings from the oldest vines, they are propagating the superior vines that natural selection has put forward. Additionally, with genetic diversity the vineyard is better defended from a catastrophic disease that might otherwise wipe out a cloned vineyard. This is a long term project, but well worth the effort.

They now have enough budwood stored for future reproduction and planting of Cabernet and Petit Verdot. They expect that in 2-3 years they will complete the selection for Merlot. After that, replanting of their vineyards will take many years.

Already the first harvests of the new Petit Verdot vines have taken place in 2010. Cabernet sauvignon will start producing in 2011. Château Lynch Bages have taken a bold step, but it is a step that will preserve the identity of their vineyard and enhance the quality of their Bordeaux wine. And after all, isn’t that the point?



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