Wine Industry Newsletter

Mysteries of Gingin Chardonnay clone unravelling

Chardonnay grapes
Western Australian Chardonnay producers have known for many years the clone referred to as ‘Gingin’ is something special.

From its distinct low yields and millerandage (hen and chicken) bunches observed in the vineyard to the powerful structure and fine line of acid enjoyed in the glass, many of the most acclaimed Chardonnay wines from WA can attribute this unique clone to its success.

Inspired by anecdotal evidence, researchers have delved deeper into the ‘Gingin’ clone to better understand its heritage and uniqueness with quantitative research. In 2013, a national research project titled ‘Assessing clonal variability in Chardonnay and Shiraz for future climate change’ undertook a four year study investigating the performance of a number of clones across diverse climatic regions. Within the study, two sites of Gingin Chardonnay were selected, one in Margaret River and another in the Great Southern. Over four seasons, viticultural observations and wine sensory assessment found the Gingin clone was consistently different when compared to the French Bernard clones 76, 95, 96, and 277.

A summary of the findings of this project relevant to WA producers was published in the last edition of the Wine Industry Newsletter.

In 2018/19, DPIRD Research Scientist Dr Monica Kehoe conducted a research project to develop a fast and effective diagnostic tool to test for grape vine virus in the field. Within this study Monica conducted analysis of numerous Gingin Chardonnay vines across WA and found all sites tested positive to grapevine leaf-roll virus type 1 (GLRaV-1). This also aligned with the results from testing the vines from the clone project described above and historic commercial samples submitted to the DPIRD diagnostic laboratory. With this information we now have confidence that the Gingin clone is endemic with GLRaV-1 virus.

DPIRD research scientist Richard Fennessy was the WA researcher on the national clones project, and undertook a detailed investigation into the importation and distribution of the Gingin clone. His findings were published in the June 2018 edition of this newsletter. This work showed it is unclear as to the origin of the plant material initially imported to WA from California, however this mystery is now much clearer with newly published research from the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI).

The AWRI initiated a project to whole genome sequence a number of key Chardonnay clones, and have now incorporated these learnings with newly sequenced clones including Gingin, Old Farm (OF) and Mendoza. In December 2018, DPIRD sampled two separate WA vineyards with the most direct descended vines from those originally imported in 1957. The researchers at AWRI sequenced this material as well of samples of clones Mendoza and OF. Comparing unique genetic markers, the AWRI researchers found that Gingin, OF and Mendoza share a lineage but there is sufficient genetic diversity between them to be unique in their own right (Roach, Borneman & Schmidt 2020). Interestingly, there are more similarities between Gingin and OF than Mendoza. This research by the AWRI has been published in the Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research.

DPIRD and the WA Vine Improvement Association (WAVIA) are working together to ensure future true to type Gingin propagation material is available to the WA wine industry. Due to Gingin having GLRaV-1, it is unable to be included into the DPIRD managed WA Germplasm Collection due to risk of viral spread to other material within the collection. DPIRD and WAVIA are working on an arrangement with a third party to be a custodian of this material who will provide best practice management in maintaining this key resource for the WA wine industry.

Reference

Roach, M.J., Borneman, A.R., Schmidt, S.A. 2020. Origin of Chardonnay clones with historical significance in Australia and California. Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research doi: 10.1111/ajgw.12448