GrapeOnFarm

On-farm inventory of minor grape varieties in the European Vitis Database

Activity Coordinator: Erika Maul  Email

The project "On-farm inventory of minor grape varieties in the European Vitis Database (GrapeOnFarm)", submitted by the Vitis Working Group for funding under the Third Call of the Activity Grant Scheme, was selected by the Executive Committee and approved in May 2016.

“Not at all easy to drink what shall be preserved” (Thomas Riedl – wine amateur)

Implementation

October 2017
The GrapeOnFarm partners met at the Institute for Grapevine Breeding (Geilweilerhof, Germany) on 10 October 2017. Reports focused on the main topics: announcement of the initiative, feedback from growers, descriptors and national procedures for registering minor grape varieties.
The outcome is summarized below.
To reach wine growers a short and simple text was elaborated. It was then translated by the partners and adapted to the specific conditions of the participating wine growing countries. The text was disseminated via professional press media. In addition the GrapeOnFarm initiative was presented at diverse occasions, like meetings of wine growers associations, at conferences or grapevine symposiums. Each country found further possibilities to communicate the undertaking, e.g. via non-profit organizations and networks of grapevine collections.
Even though huge efforts were made, in most of the countries feedback from wine growers was close to zero. Best results were achieved in Albania, Montenegro and Serbia. The participants agreed that the direct contact with each wine grower might achieve the best results. Reasons for the lack of interest by wine growers were discussed, e.g. additional work, too many descriptors, no benefit for the wine grower to be listed on the European level, fear of control, because some of the varieties are not on the national list.
Some of the on-farm descriptors were slightly modified. The four categories were accepted: grower (12 descriptors), variety preserved (17 descriptors), vineyard description (17 descriptors) and commitments (6 descriptors). The final list is available below.
The question “which varieties can be considered as minor cultivars” was discussed. Criteria determining the degree of threat of minor cultivars will be assembled according to a table in the Green Book, Indigenous Grape Varieties of Croatia (Maletic et al. 2015, available here). The area planted with grapevine in each country will be considered.
National procedures for registration of minor cultivars were presented by each participating country. Similarities are given, like the use of DUS-criteria and the assessment of the agronomic and technical value of a variety in nearly all countries. However the possibilities allowing cultivation and marketing of minor varieties not included in the national lists and alternative legislation to easily register the rare and historical varieties are country-specific and highly diverse. Some countries follow a more liberal way. The participants of the workshop agreed that a prerequisite for a successful preservation of minor varieties on farm is to adapt the rules from countries where to date an easy registration is possible. In that context, Italy has the most advanced legislation.

Participants in the workshop (Photo by E. Maul)

May 2017
Activities for the establishment of the inventory of on-farm producers in the European Vitis Database are underway.
According to the situation in the countries, different approaches are followed to reach growers: dissemination of the objectives of the on-farm activity via growers’ magazines or other media, presentation of the initiative at various conferences and meetings which are attended by producers, and through direct contact with the wine growers. First contacts with wine growers reveal that there is an interest to support the on-farm objectives.
Five categories of descriptors were compiled by the participants of the Activity. They document the grower’s contact data and locality (12 descriptors), inform about the variety preserved and for what reason the cultivar was chosen, how it was identified (13 descriptors), provide a detailed description of the vineyard maintenance and sanitary aspects (16 descriptors), display commitments of the growers and criteria related to the database (6 descriptors each). A final discussion on the choice of descriptors will take place during the workshop to be held on 10 October 2017, after having interviewed the first farmers.

February 2017
European activities on grape germplasm safeguard raised the awareness of wine growers about the existence of forgotten varieties. As a consequence the wine sector is increasingly interested in minor and neglected grape varieties. An inventory of on-farm producers is intended as a framework addressed to grape growers and nurseries, wine consumers, wine merchants and journalists. Besides the effective utilization of the rare germplasm, its monitoring is envisaged as well.
To reach out potential interested parties, a text describing the activity and encouraging wine growers to join the initiative was prepared for publication in wine growers’ magazines.
A first draft of descriptors for on-farm maintenance was established and will be circulated among Activity partners. Concepts of “minor varieties” and “on-farm” will also be discussed in the specific case of grapevine. An on-farm section will be implemented in the European Vitis Database, based on these descriptors. The given information should enable the exchange of experience, supplement preservation of uncommon genetic resources, facilitate access to propagation material and inform wine consumers where to find the products of rare varieties.
In addition it is aimed to provide a proposal for a legal framework for minor grape cultivars not included in national variety lists, to facilitate legal cultivation and trade of wines.