What is a clone and what are pinot noir clones?
So what does clone mean when it comes to wine? The English word clone is based on a Greek word for twig and refers to the practice of generating a new plant, genetically identical to its parent, by taking and propagating a cutting. Unlike hybrids and vines that result from cross-pollination, a clone is a deliberate vegetative propagation from a single parent plant.
In regards to wine, in viticulture, the term “clone” generally refers to a vine variety that is selected for specific qualities, which result from natural mutations.
Cloning was invented to eliminate problems, establish a healthy framework on which to grow vines, enabling more consistent high quality growth and therefore high quality wines.
What are Pinot Noir Clones? A Primer
Perhaps you’ve heard speak of the ‘Dijon Clone’, or clone D2V6? Maybe you’ve heard winemakers (or your extremely knowledgeable, definitely not snobby wine friends) throwing around terms like ‘Abel’ or 777…
Well – if you’ve ever found yourself wondering, “What the hell is a wine clone?” – You’ve come to the right place.
We are here to explain what a pinot noir clone is and why they are important. Read on and you will be a clone expert in no time.
A (very brief) history of pinot noir clones in Australia…
When vineyards on a commercial scale were being established in Australia, the approach was a little more haphazard than it is today. Growers would head over to their neighbour’s block, take a cutting, propagate it and plant it out. This process was given the name ‘mass selection’.
But with mass selection, you may not know exactly what you’re going to get. Maybe your new vines will have low yields because of poor genetics, or they might be prone to viruses or pests, so basically, when you’ve taken those cuttings, all you’ve done is reproduce these problems in your own vineyard.
This is where cloning comes in. Cloning was invented to eliminate these problems, establishing a healthy framework on which to grow vines, enabling more consistent high quality growth and therefore high quality wines.
Why are pinot noir clones important?
We talk a lot about clonal selection when it comes to pinot noir. This is because winemakers have come to realise that the different clones result in both different quality levels and tastes in wine. Some clones of pinot noir make bold and robust wines, while others are pale-coloured but offer the most amazing floral aromas.
Pinot Noir is considered ‘genetically unstable’ (meaning that it mutates easily) and because it is so old, it has had ample time to naturally mutate into new clones. It is estimated there are currently more than 2,000 pinot noir clones globally. In Australia, there are 15 significant clones used in winemaking.
And because we all have our own unique palates and preferences, there is no single clone that is the be-all and end-all for every winemaker. In fact, so varied are the expressions and uses of the various clones and so often are they required to be blended, that it’s hard to pin down winemakers as to which clone they believe is best, and why.
The power of the clone lies in growing multiple successful clones in your vineyard, helping to produce unique and diverse wines.
A message about clones: don’t panic! A clone does not mean a grapevine comes from genetically modified material or that it has morphed into something harmful. This is not a grape-based version of creating Dolly the Sheep.
What clones are used in Austin’s Wines’ pinot noir?
- MV6: The largest clone variety planted at Austin’s (also known as the mothervine of Australian pinot clones). Thrives in cool climate regions and produces sweet strawberry flavours and a soft palate
- D2V6: A Davis clone (originating from California). When grown in our region, D2V6 produces darker fruit flavours and tannin structure. Majority of D2V6 grapes are used in the Austin’s range and has low to medium yields
- 115: Dijon clone (originating from Burgundy). Typically goes to veraison first and is kept separately to blend with other varieties later. 115 is a highly valued clone for balance and aromatic richness and typically produces dark jammy fruit flavours
- 114: Dijon clone (originating from Burgundy). Classic pinot noir flavour profile of black cherry and raspberry and boasts good skin structure and tannins. Similar to 115, 114 is picked separately to blend
- 777: Dijon clone (originating from Burgundy). Achieves ripeness slightly earlier than other pinot clones. High in sugar production and sweet fruit flavour profile. When picked early, can become herbaceous.
The newest Austin’s Planting
- Abel: Smuggled into New Zealand from Burgundy and confiscated by a Customs Officer called Malcolm Abel in the 1970s. Hoping to produce red fruit flavours, such as rhubarb with strong colour and tannin structure
- 667: Dijon clone (originating from Burgundy). We are hoping this will produce dark fruit flavours such as black cherries and rich, spicy flavours
Did you know…
Like “Pink Lady” apples or “Clementine” oranges, some grape clones require a license to sell wines under their trademark?
Have you tried Austin’s Pinot Noir?
Silky, smooth and restrained. Pinot Noir at its finest.
This fragrant wine is a true expression of Geelong’s Moorabool Valley. It’s an award-winning palate-pleaser for the most discerning pinot noir drinker.
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