She’s a Tricky Little Grape

Think your Pinot Noir is a complex little thing? Well, it is. More complex than we humans, according to scientists who have just mapped the genes of the grape. Pinot Noir grapes have about 30,000 genes; humans have only 20,000 to 25,000. Perhaps it’s time to admit what we’ve suspected all along: that we’ve fallen under the power of a complicated and highly evolved little grape.

The findings were published in the journal Nature last week (and are available online for subscribers). As a subsequent AP article explains, “mapping of those flavor-producing genes could be a first step toward developing new flavors in wine by allowing scientists to breed different varieties to create precise new tastes.” This, of course, set off a flurry of commentary amongst those who blog about wine.

As Fredric Koeppel, commenting on the blog Mondosapore, points out: “it had to happen. Genetically-enhanced wine. wine can have oak flavors bred INTO it. No more worry about those expensive French oak barrels.”

Since Pinot Noir is the first fruit ever mapped, experts say it will take years for this knowledge to be applied in any practical manner. But certainly it will be hard to resist messing with nature. I mean, with only a measly 20,000 genes to our name, we probably don’t know any better.

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