Wine Industry Newsletter

Olmo linked to mysterious WA Droopy clone of Pinot Noir

There is much mystery and conjecture surrounding the Pinot Noir clone known within the WA wine industry as ‘Droopy’.

DPIRD’s research scientist Richard Fennessy has undertaken a deep dive into the historic records to clarify the origin of this highly regarded clone.

Jim Campbell-Clause (Campbell-Clause, personal communication, November 2022) describes the first introduction of Pinot Noir into WA as:

'The Department of Agriculture introduced Pinot Noir cuttings from CSIRO which were received in 1965 (IW652051 as FVD5V12A/VX/, COMPUTER NUMBER 14428). Once the cuttings were planted in WA there where 2 distinct growth characteristics observed, being some vines had upright and others drooping (pendulous) growth habit. The vines with the drooping growth habit were then separated from the others and from then on referred to as ‘WA Droopy’ while the upright vines were listed as D5V12A (accession number IW652051).'

Jim (Campbell-Clause, personal communication, November 2022) further expands that from 1976 cuttings of the WA Droopy clone of Pinot Noir were taken from the Department of Agriculture’s Swan Research Station and distributed, with the first sales to Bennett, Killerby, Leeuwin, Neave and Plantagenet.

Tony Devitt sent a sample to the AWRI on 24 April 1998 (Pinot Noir WA Selection (Droopy)) to AWRI (Reference number D82408) which came back as matching Pinot Noir (could not get to clone level at that time).

Pinot Noir clone WA Droopy
Pinot Noir clone WA Droopy in DPIRD's Grapevine Germplasm collection in Manjimup

Pinot Noir clone D5V12A was first imported into Australia from the now Foundation Plant Services (FPS) arm of UC Davis in 1962 by the Victorian Department of Agriculture and it is also believed so too was material labelled as Gamay Beaujolais (clone D4V2).

These 2 accessions have clear notes describing D5V12A as displaying upright growth habit while D4V2 had a pendulous growth habit.

Interestingly, Nicholas (2006) lists clone D4V2 without an accession number but does note the material originated from FPS and is known within that collection as FPS 04.

The next part of the mystery is the origin of clones D4V2 and D5V12A of which can be unravelled by the following timeline constructed from Sweet’s (2018) detailed account of Dr Harold Olmo’s 1951 mission to obtain superior and disease-free varieties such as Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay from Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria.

The timelines below are specific to events at UC Davis relating to the origin of D4V2 and D5V12A.

D5V12A

1911 – Frederic Bioletti establishes a vineyard at the University Farm in Davis which consisted of a number of different Vitis vinifera including ‘Gamai beaujolais’ from Richter Nursery in Montpellier, France.

1929 – 'A map of the University Farm vineyard shows 'Gamai beaujolais' at vineyard block VIII B2 v11-12, which was eventually renumbered by Olmo as vineyard block D2 v11-12.  Olmo's vineyard maps and wine grape evaluation records indicate that material from D2 v11-12 was propagated to locations C81: 1-22, then to C2: 9-10, and finally to I60: 15.'

1958 – Cuttings of 'Gamai Beaujolais-1' are made publicly available from the Armstrong foundation vineyard from registered vines located at Block A row 12 vines 29-32.

1960s – USDA plant pathologist Austin Goheen takes cuttings from the 'Gamai beaujolais' (GB) vine I60:15 within the University Farm vineyard and subjects them to 141 days of heat treatment therapy to ultimately become Pinot Noir (GB) 22 which was later referred to as 'superclone Pinot Noir 105' in the early 1970s. This clone and 4 other selections from the Armstrong foundation vineyard Block A, row 12, vines 29-32 became sister propagations planted in the new FPMS Hopkins vineyard in 1961. They were later renumbered Gamay Beaujolais FPMS 18 (r12 v32), FPMS 19 (r12 v31), FPMS 20 (r12 v30), and FPMS 21 (r12 v29).

1962 – Interpreting the accession number, it can be assumed clone D5V12A is supplied to the Victorian Department of Agriculture by FPMS labelled as Gamay Beaujolais. Nicolas (2006) notes this material to be from FPS 19 but Whiting (personal communication, May 2024) has records showing this importation came from FPS 20.

1970 – 'The 4 sister propagations of Gamay Beaujolais as well as the heat treated selection (FPS 22) were sold to the industry as 'Gamay Beaujolais' until the time that Olmo issued his statement on misidentification of Gamay Beaujolais in 1970. The selections were then renamed 'Pinot Noir (GB)'. The reference to 'GB' or  'GB style' is usually included when any of those selections is mentioned to reflect that the material is a distinct Gamay Beaujolais subclone of Pinot Noir'. Interestingly, Sweet (2018) mentions records of Amerine and Winkler in both 1944 and 1963 observing Gamay Beaujolais vines exhibiting Pinot Noir character in leaf morphology and fruit and wine character. 

D4V2

1951 – Dr Harold Olmo takes cuttings from 4 vines of Pinot Noir from a vineyard identified as 'Les Croix Vineyard, Pommard, France'.

1954 – Only one bundle of 4 cuttings survived the shipping and testing process and later became registered at FPMS (Foundation of Plant Materials Service) as Pinot Noir-1 (location O.F. 9 v 9-11), its origin was described at the time as ‘820 Pommard, France’.

1961 – The selection Pinot Noir-1 was moved to FPMS Hopkins Foundation Vineyard and planted in row D4 vines 1a, 2a, 3a, 4a-8. The selection number on the D4 vines were changed to Pinot Noir 04.

1962 – It can be confidently assumed that Pinot Noir clone D4V2 is supplied to the Victorian Department of Agriculture with Gamay Beaujolais clone D5V12A and other grapevine material from FPS with accession number prefix IV6220.

1964 – FPS selections 05 and 06 were created from Pinot Noir 04 using thermotherapy, all 3 have been referred to by industry as Pommard clones.

1965 – Material taken from D4 vine 1a underwent heat treatment therapy and became Pinot Noir 05 and 06 which were then released in the late 1960s as the heat treated 'superclone Pinot Noir 103'.

2002 - FPS 91 is created from Pinot Noir 04 by microshoot-tip culture.

Further evidence surrounding the origin of D5V12A is that Foundation Plant Services Grapes (2024) characterises Pinot Noir clone 19 as  'one of a group of FPS Pinot Noir selections that has been known as the Gamay Beaujolais type, which is characterised by high vigour and an upright growth habit.'  This growth habit aligns with common descriptions used by WA vignerons when describing D5V12A.

John Whiting (Whiting, personal communication, May 2024) notes that in 1961, Victorian Plant Pathologist R ‘Bob’ H Taylor visited UC Davis and looked at grape viruses with Olmo. In 1962, Taylor imported a number of varieties into the Victorian government quarantine station in Burnley. John (Whiting, personal communication, May 2024) believes there were 10 varieties/clones (11 including D4V2) introduced in 1962 from UC Davis and that possibly a clerical error resulted in D4V2 missing an accession number. Based on the sequence of accessions of these imports ranging from 2046 to 2056 and that 2048 is missing it can be assumed D4V2 should have been issued the accession number IV622048.

Both Whiting and Walker (personal communication, May 2024) report that once the cuttings left Burnley quarantine station they were then planted at the Merbein CSIRO Research Station in 1963 as the Victorian Department of Agriculture did not have a grapevine collection at this point in time.

Information within the UC Davis timeline and considering the year the Victorian Department of Agriculture received Pinot Noir material from FPS and the described characteristics of the above mentioned clones provides strong evidence to support the theory that D5V12A and D4V2 were introduced into Victoria at the same time. Also, D5V12A was sourced from material originally imported to UC Davis in 1911 by Bioletti from the Richter nursery in Montpellier, France and that D4V2 was sourced from material imported from the Premier Cru Les Croix Vineyard, Pommard, France in 1951 by Olmo.

Considering this, a fair assumption can be made that the Victorian Department of Agriculture received 2 different clones of Pinot Noir (one of which was identified as Gamay Beaujolais at the time) in 1962, these were supplied to CSIRO and consequently sent to the Western Australian Department of Agriculture in 1965 as possibly an incorrect single clone consignment.

A recent research project conducted by the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) that has been sequencing a number of varieties and clones from private and public grapevine collections across Australia has shown the genetic sequence of ‘WA Droopy’ clustered with other samples labelled D4V2 (Borneman, personal communication, April 2024). This same work also clusters WAVIA’s D5V12A with similarly labelled clones from other collections including H7V15 which is the heat treated derived material of the ‘Gamai beaujolais’ consequently renamed as Pinot Noir (GB) FPS 22.

Further reading on Pinot Noir clones available in WA and their respective attributes can be accessed in the September 2021 edition of the Wine Industry newsletter.

The author wishes to thank the following people who have assisted in providing information and thoughts on this matter; John Whiting, Rob Walker, Jim Campbell-Clause, Chris Harding, Bill Pannell,  Dan Pannell, Keith Mugford, Tony Devitt, Rob Diletti and Anthony Borneman.                                                                                  

References

Foundation Plant Services Grapes (2024) Grape variety: Pinot noir, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences website, accessed 1 May 2024.

Nicholas, P 2006, National register of grapevine varieties and clones, The Australian Vine Improvement Association Inc. (AVIA), Australia

Sweet, N 2018, Pinot: A treasure house of clonal riches, Foundation Plant Services, University of California, Davis, viewed 12 April 2024, https://fps.ucdavis.edu/grapebook/winebook.cfm?chap=PinotNoir