Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Grupo Estévez Finances Old Vine Study

A very interesting article on an important subject in today’s Diario de Jerez

A team of researchers at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) will study the collection of vine varieties amassed by Simón de Rojas Clemente y Rubio (1777-1827) which has been conserved  for over 200 years at the Royal Botanic Garden in Madrid. The financing of the study is the result of an agreement between the CSIC and Grupo Estévez, owners of Bodegas La Guita, Marqués del Real Tesoro and Valdespino as well as some 800 hectares of vineyard.

Their collaboration in this project demonstrates the group’s business philosophy of backing the vineyard with the purpose of achieving a sustainable agro-alimentary chain and empowering the primary (vine growing) sector. It will improve conditions for the growers by re-investing some of the profits into the vineyards to improve the productivity and quality of the final product. This is an objective which Estévez shares with the supermarket Mercadona to whom they are major wine and spirit suppliers.

Statue to Simon de Rojas Clemente in Madrid's Royal Botanic Garden
(foto commons.wikimedia.org)

The study will be led by the CSIC researcher María del Carmen Martínez, already in charge of the viticulture group at the Biological Mission of Galicia, and will identify the varieties of vine using ampelograpy (traditional study of vine varieties) and DNA. The vine specimens have been conserved since 1802 and the researchers hope to discover which varieties are still used and which have disappeared. Alongside the study team will be researchers from the Botanic Garden and INRA, the French viticultural station at Montpellier.

Maria del Carmen Martinez at work (foto diario jerez)
According to Martínez, this is the oldest collection of vine varieties in the world: the second oldest being a collection in France dating from 1870. The Rojas Clemente collection consists of 186 sheets, each with the dried leaves and buds of a specific variety. All the samples were collected in Andalucía, mostly around Sanlúcar, Trebujena and Jerez.

Simón de Rojas Clemente was the first to apply scientific method to the study and description of cultivated vine varieties and is thus considered to be the world’s first ampelographer. In 1807 he published a book, translated into various languages and later imitated, in which he established a method of description. Nearly all the parameters he established are still in use and form part of the official method used by the OIV (International Organisation for the Vine and Wine) which has 46 member countries.

Clemente (as he is generally referred to) includes in his book a description of the majority of the vines conserved in his collection, but his habit of giving them names dedicated to authors or just inventing them means that it is difficult to know which he is referring to with exactitude. Now that we can complete the book’s descriptions using ampelographical and molecular studies directly on the conserved samples we should be able to know which are still in existence and which are not, says Martínez.

From the point of view of Estévez, their collaboration with the CSIC is the beginning of a period of cooperation between the two entities with the common objective of being at the forefront of science, innovation and wine focusing on the wealth of the Spanish viticultural patrimony. Improved understanding of it and its improvement will be of benefit to all.

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