Most role players in the industry are probably already aware of Vinpro’s Gen-Z vineyard project. The objective of this project is to establish experimental plots in commercial vineyards and then collect information from these plots to share with producers via a more practical approach at demo sites and field day sessions. The project is multidisciplinary and includes inter alia rootstock trials, clone gardens and cover crop plots.
With the commencement of the project in 2015, it was decided in the Olifants River to focus specifically on alternative cultivars not widely grown in the region. These include white and red cultivars that show potential to produce good yield and quality in the region’s hot conditions with its sharp heat spikes. The first grafted vines were already planted between commercial blocks in 2016. The amount varies between 150 and 250 vines per trial which yields enough grapes for the producer cellars in the region to make wine from.
The project is still ongoing and would not be possible without the cooperation of a large group of people. This includes the producers who are willing to plant the grafted vines, cultivate and deliver the grapes separately, as well as viticulturists who assist with planning and intakes. Furthermore, the winemakers who make time and space in their cellars during harvest time, plus facilities and man-hours which are made available by Namaqua Wines and Lutzville Vineyards. Vititec has also been very helpful in processing and supplying these small orders of grafted vines. Wines made from these cultivars are tasted annually by winemakers and viticulturists in the region, and notes are made and stored. A record is also kept of basic production data. Production and tasting results are shared in Table 1.
TABLE 1. Tasting notes, comments and basic production data per cultivar.
Verdelho looks like a good option to make fresh and delicate white wines in a hot area and is very early. On red sandy soils where it is mechanically pruned, yields of 30 t/ha and higher are possible. Vermentino performs well with its fresh citrus flavours and holding ability, but effective skin contact is required for good juice recoveries. The Tempranillo wines display well year after year with complex fruit flavours, and this cultivar is also an early alternative for Pinotage. The Carménère has proved itself by already winning medals at wine shows, but is a challenging cultivar. Low fertility means that long bearers have to be left on the vine during pruning, and like Merlot, Carménère is prone to green flavours. Marselan (Photo 1) is currently showing stellar potential with its Cabernet Sauvignon-type of wines and very good yield. Its strong vigour does however mean that site selection is important. The commercial cultivation of Durif (Petit Syrah) has been very successful in the area for the last few years already. Its good yield, dark colour, spice and fruit character complement cultivars like Shiraz excellently. Sangiovese (Photo 2) has a very good crop load potential and sweet fruit flavours like cherry which is conducive to light red wine styles.
The project offers a wealth of value and knowledge to producers in the region, and is only starting to truly gather momentum. In the future we may see more of these cultivars lending themselves to large-scale commercial cultivation. If this proves to be the case, and these wines are better suited to the region, perform well and add value to the region’s wine spectrum, the Gen-Z interplanting project will be partly to credit, together with Vititec, the producers and winemakers who made it possible. The project continues with new plantings of Assyrtiko, Tannat, Agiorgitiko and Piquepoul blanc that will soon start to produce grapes.
The Gen-Z website, www.genz.co.za, is live and producers can view the clone, cultivar and rootstock trials active in their areas, as well as the information that is already available.
– For more information, contact Gert Engelbrecht at firstname.lastname@example.org.