Gene sequencing tech to make 'climate tolerant' cabernet sauvignon

From the UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA – DAVIS and the “GMO wine department” comes this news:

Genomics breakthrough paves way for climate-tolerant wine grape varieties

A new sequencing technology, combined with a new computer algorithm that can yield detailed information about complex genomes of various organisms, has been used to produce a high-quality draft genome sequence of cabernet sauvignon, the world’s most popular red wine grape variety, reports a UC Davis genomics expert.

Success of the new genome assembly, which allows researchers to assemble large segments of an organism’s DNA, also was demonstrated on the common research plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the coral mushroom (Clavicorona pyxidata). The findings will be reported Oct. 17 in the journal Nature Methods.

The three-pronged, proof-of-concept study used an open-source genome assembly process called FALCON-unzip, developed by Pacific Biosciences of Menlo Park, California. The study was led by Chen-Shan Chin, the firm’s leading bioinformatician. Lead researcher on the cabernet sauvignon sequencing effort was Dario Cantu, a plant geneticist specializing in plant and microbial genomics in the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology.

“For grapevine genomics, this new technology solves a problem that has limited the development of genomic resources for wine grape varieties,” Cantu said. “It’s like finally being able to uncork a wine bottle that we have wanted to drink for a long time.

“The new process provides rapid access to genetic information that cabernet sauvignon has inherited from both its parents, enabling us to identify genetic markers to use in breeding new vines with improved traits,” he said.

The first genome sequence for the common grapevine, Vitis vinifera, was completed in 2007. Because it was based on a grapevine variety that was generated to simplify the genome assembly procedure, rather than a cultivated variety, that sequence lacks many of the genomic details that economically important wine grape varieties possess, Cantu said.

He noted that the new sequencing technology will enable his research group to conduct comparative studies between cabernet sauvignon and other historically and economically important wine grape varieties.

“This will help us understand what makes cabernet sauvignon cabernet sauvignon,” he said.

Outmaneuvering climate change:

“The new genomic information that will be generated with this new genomics approach will accelerate the development of new disease-resistant wine grape varieties that produce high-quality, flavorful grapes and are better suited to environmental changes,” Cantu said.

Warmer temperatures attributed to climate change are already being recorded in many prime grape-growing regions of the world. And in California, where the value of grape crops varies widely and is heavily influenced by local climate, it is especially important that new varieties be able thrive despite warming temperatures.

“In a worsening climate, drought and heat stress will be particularly relevant for high-quality viticultural areas such as Napa and Sonoma,” Cantu said.

Shedding light on a viticultural mystery:

The new sequencing effort may also answer some of the questions that have surrounded the ancestry of cabernet sauvignon for centuries, Cantu said.

“Having access to this genomic information is historically fascinating,” Cantu said, noting that the cabernet sauvignon grape variety is thought to date no later than the 17th century. He noted that in 1997 UC Davis plant geneticist Carole Meredith used DNA fingerprinting techniques to identify cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc as the two varieties that had crossed to produce cabernet sauvignon.

“Today, you can find cabernet sauvignon growing on every continent except Antarctica,” Cantu said. “And because grape vines have been propagated by plant cuttings rather than grown from seed, all of the cabernet sauvignon vines are genetically identical, with the exception of some spontaneous, clonal mutations.”

“Using this new genome sequencing process, we can now develop the genetic markers necessary to combine important traits into new varieties,” Cantu said. “It’s been 400 years since that was last done for cabernet sauvignon; we can do better than that.”


Funding and collaborators:

Funding for the cabernet sauvignon genome sequencing was provided by J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines.

Collaborating with Cantu on the sauvignon cabernet study were Rosa Figueroa-Balderas and Abraham Morales-Cruz, both of UC Davis; Grant R. Cramer of the University of Nevada, Reno; and Massimo Delledonne of the University of Verona, Italy.

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October 17, 2016 8:47 am

Outmaneuvering imports with tariffs and lack of a SAFTA agreement is the main underlying goal, not climate change.

Tom Halla
October 17, 2016 8:53 am

It would be interesting to make a variety of wine grape that produces good wine in hot areas. I live in Texas, and it is a trifle warm for truly good wine–rather good, but not really good.

Reply to  Tom Halla
October 17, 2016 9:56 am

Texas (Napa like in marketing) in the Hill Country around Fredericksburg has wine grape production. The development has been ongoing. Grape-wine in the variety of some French wines – same soil type. My knowledge of this is as a tourist visitor. I did not find the dark grape Cabernet. Texas is the 4th largest producer of wine in the United States

Tom Halla
Reply to  FredericE
October 17, 2016 10:08 am

My understanding is that “terroir”, or local climate and soil, affect grape quality. The use of genetic engineering should allow a better fit of grape to more climate types, rather than seeking climate to fit the grape type.

george e. smith
Reply to  Tom Halla
October 17, 2016 8:14 pm

Who gives a rip about Cabernet Sauvignon.
How about geneing up a good Pinot Noir instead.

Reply to  george e. smith
October 18, 2016 2:57 am

Pinot Noir is supposed to be a hard grape to grow!

Reply to  Tom Halla
October 18, 2016 4:44 am

well curiously enough if theyre all related…Aussie cab savs cope with extreme heat and our wines win awards..maybe they should just import some cuttings?
what a bloody waste of time effort n money
glad I dont like wine
seems another GMO screwup i wont have to bother reading labels or just plain avoiding,
like soy or corn produced in usa products or any canola or cottonseed oil products in aus

george e. smith
Reply to  ozspeaksup
October 18, 2016 9:12 am

Well growing Pinot Noir only became difficult after they featured it in a crappie movie.
Prior to that you could get some very good Pinot Noir for reasonable prices.
Does Gallo make Cabernet Sauvignon? they seem to be good at making bulk wines for the masses.

Reply to  ozspeaksup
October 18, 2016 2:22 pm

I pop over to Calais for my wine. ‘La Villageoise’ – about 3 Euros a bottle – of 1,5 litres; a perfectly acceptable Vin de Pays. Leave at 5 a.m. and home by about 2 pm [0500-1400].
Even with the post-Brexit incredible shrinking pound, that is good value for money!

Reply to  ozspeaksup
October 19, 2016 12:13 am

George, try a German Pinot Noir, you’d be surprised. But you might have to learn to spell Spätburgunder first, I wouldn’t trust the wineries that use the french name for the grape!

October 17, 2016 9:00 am

Climate Change certainly has become the established religion’s required incantation for any study – even if the target climates vary an order of magnitude more than any averaged variation over any of our lifetimes .

Ben of Houston
Reply to  Bob Armstrong
October 17, 2016 12:56 pm

Yes, even in their own press release, this is more a target for diseases and bad crop years than climate change. It seems that they added climate for the sole purpose of getting more funding or publication.

Reply to  Ben of Houston
October 17, 2016 4:17 pm

Yes. A few years back, I attended a scholarly talk – that claimed something about climate change and wine quality. The speaker ended up talking about three parameters that affect subjective wine quality – sugar, alcohol, and something else. So, they could examine the influence of weather upon these general subjective-quality measures.
Instead of being about climate change, the data showed that “microclimate” – amount of rain, etc., in the growing season for one specific area predicted the quality of the wine – the vinyard where he gathered weather data had multiple micro-climates; each hillside was notably different. But Climate Change sells, so Climate Change was in the paper.
I was thoroughly upset until they rolled out the free samples.

Don gleason
October 17, 2016 9:02 am

I’m not a believer, but If the INDUSTRY wants to fund this, have at it. Napa Valley cab fetches $6000/ton and up. It is completely rational to want to limit your risks and protect your return. Purists won’t dig it. Bordeaux can move to Normandy.

October 17, 2016 9:20 am

[snip -off topic -mod]

Reply to  Marcus
October 17, 2016 9:57 am

…So I misunderstood…this was not about “gene modification” ?

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
October 17, 2016 9:25 am

Climate is dynamic and follows a natural variability. The present climate is part of this. Grapes are grown under this variable climate in the past and will be grown in future. GM companies used climate change as to enter in to all forms of agriculture. We must condemn such moves. In California in the past one month shows the weather variability.
Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

John Boles
October 17, 2016 9:25 am

Frankenberry wine sounds good, maybe a grape juice version.

Steve Fraser
October 17, 2016 9:41 am

While they are at it, how about developing strains that can be grown in COOLER areas, i.e, Galatin Mountain Merlot? 🙂

Steve Fraser
Reply to  Steve Fraser
October 17, 2016 9:41 am

Or, Sheffield Shiraz…

October 17, 2016 9:46 am

So the next thing should be adding the DNA of Cab.Sauv. to that of Aberdeen Angus, or even better, Galloway, cattle and then we can have our steak and wine at the same time.
Won’t be as much fun, though.

The Original Mike M
Reply to  Oldseadog
October 17, 2016 10:12 am

And reviews will probably favor steaks with a cork over those with a screw-top.

Barbara Skolaut
Reply to  The Original Mike M
October 17, 2016 11:39 am


October 17, 2016 9:57 am

They’ve been working on drought-resistant and heat-resistant grapes (both wine and table) at Davis for decades. Maybe calling the efforts a fight against climate change is a way to get more funds.

Walt D.
October 17, 2016 10:04 am

What is apparent is the major disconnect between all the climate doom and gloom and actual wine vintages.
I suggest you read Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate to see what he thinks of the Napa Valley California Cabernet Sauvignons for 2010 – 2013.
Or go down to the liquor store or supermarket and buy a bottle and find out for yourself how much deterioration in quality that extra hundredth of a degree has resulted in.

The Original Mike M
October 17, 2016 10:18 am

They ought to be able to go either way with temperature adaptability so maybe we’ll see grape wines from Fargo ND competing with Napa Valley someday? More competition = lower prices!

October 17, 2016 10:29 am

so, they got a new DNA sequencer and put some wine DNA throught it.
And, presto, with some climate spice added out comes a new publication.
If you don’t know how to do science, just buy either a new,very big computer and calculate climate models, or get a new sequencer and put anything through it, which you can garnish with climate.
Not impressive.

The Original Mike M
October 17, 2016 10:30 am

Couldn’t find anything closer to Napa but checking NOAA’s “Climate at a Glance” for Sacramento I don’t see any reason for concern in the first place?
Maximum temperature for July & August –
Average temperature for July & August –

Reply to  The Original Mike M
October 17, 2016 4:20 pm

Good work, Mike.
I need to save that webpage and learn how to work it. Evey time they were throwing one of these local stories out there, I was using wolframalpha and entering “average temperature past 60 years” and the locale.
It is very difficult to find a town with increasing temps. And I have never seen a hockey stick.

October 17, 2016 10:34 am

There are some VERY sick people in this world.

October 17, 2016 10:40 am

So they’re planting vineyards at airports, in parking lots, and next to air conditioning exhausts?

Reply to  Gary
October 17, 2016 3:55 pm

+100 🙂

Bob B.
October 17, 2016 11:02 am

Well at least we’ll be able to watch the end of the world with a nice glass of Cabernet.

October 17, 2016 11:24 am

Hmmm…. California-
California wine-grape growers celebrate bumper crop – NY Daily News…/california-wine-grape-growers-celebrate-bumper...
18 Feb 2014 – California agriculture officials reported good news for wine lovers and vineyard operators alike: a record harvest of wine grapes. Growers in the …
Take Two | California sees large bumper grape crop in 2012 | 89.3 ……/california-sees-large-bumper-grape-crop-in-2012/
19 Feb 2013 – California sees large bumper grape crop in 2012 … More than 4 million tons of wine grapes were grown, and they … September 21 2016 …
Bumper Californian crop puts pressure on high-end – Decanter…/bumper-californian-crop-puts-pressure-on-high-end-...
23 Feb 2010 – California’s bumper 2009 harvest is putting pressure on the premium end of the market, according to preliminary figures. … The market for higher-end grapes and wine remained ‘one of caution … Decanter magazine May 2016.
Bumper California harvests won’t mean oversupply, says Constellation ……/bumper-california-harvests-won-t-mean-oversuppl...
9 Jan 2014 – Bumper California harvests won’t mean oversupply, says Constellation … Glenn Proctor, California-based partner at global wine and grape broker … by Decanter for its California supplement in the September 2016 issue.
Ample supplies, good quality summer fruit due from California | The ……/ample-supplies-good-quality-summer-fruit-due-c...
18 Apr 2016 – By Tom Burfield April 18, 2016 | 1:16 pm EDT … A bumper crop of table grapes could roll out of California’s Coachella Valley, said Bob Bianco, …
Record California Wine Grape Harvest – Wines & Vines…Record%20California%20Win...
California followed up the bumper harvest of 2012 with an even larger one in 2013. … The average price of all wine grapes was $745 per ton, with the average for red wine grapes up 4% to $842 and the average for …. August 2016, $2,813 mil.
Winetitles Media | Daily Wine News…
4/03/2016: Grape harvest kicks off with wine industry predicting bumper crop »» …
19/02/2016: $8 wine might be a tough sell this year: California forecast »» …
2016 looks fruitful for California wineries after a hard year – San ……/Harvest-arrives-for-California-wine-grape-grow...
22 Aug 2016 – California’s 2016 wine grape harvest is under way, and after a freakishly early and low-yielding 2015 vintage, things seem to be back to normal …
Nova Scotia winemakers ready to toast 2016 growing season – CBC…/winemaking-vineyard-grapes-agriculture-wine-petite-riviere...
15 Sep 2016 – Nova Scotia winemakers ready to toast 2016 growing season … A Luckett Vineyard winemaker inspects the grape bumper crop. (Jean Laroche/CBC). Across the province on the …. All rights reserved. Visitez

October 17, 2016 11:41 am

The green elite will need great wines to celebrate the institutionalized global carbon tax and the bountiful budgets that flow from it.
“Row well and live 41”

October 17, 2016 12:29 pm

Frost tolerant grapes and grape vines , would be a huge boon to the industry !!

Reply to  AndyG55
October 17, 2016 12:34 pm

Or a variety that didn’t burst when the crop gets too much rain.

Reply to  AndyG55
October 17, 2016 12:38 pm

From reports , too much January rain has affected the 2016 red vintage in the Hunter.

Reply to  AndyG55
October 18, 2016 4:50 am

what about that Ice wine?
huge profits and the freeze is the selling point:-)
like the yummy botrytis dessert wines..what some see as a fault, others find good

October 17, 2016 12:35 pm

Not sure why all the sarcasm in this thread.
This is excellent evidence that adaptation is possible, and at a fraction of the cost of mitigation. Sure, the funding appears to have been secured in part by the climate change meme, but that’s great! The investment in adaptation options costs a fraction of windmill and solar panel lunacy, doesn’t raise stability and cost issues in the current supply change, and if climate change doesn’t happen it is still of value because it creates crop options that don’t exist at the moment for other geographies, AND the resulting research will be of value in applying similar techniques to other crop types.
What’s not to like?

Reply to  davidmhoffer
October 17, 2016 1:05 pm

We’ve just become cynical. It’s a great thing that will help farmers with the normal annual swings in production. However, it’s frustrating how they are linking something to the issue of the day that is clearly not driven by fears of climate change and that would be of great benefit without any CO2 changes.
Yes, I’m glad for them. Yes it’s good long term for everyone. My daughter’s grape juice habit will benefit, as will my wife’s habit of more expensive grape juices.
However, please allow me to be a grump when I see that people put needless political buzzwords on good, beneficial research just to get published.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  davidmhoffer
October 17, 2016 1:08 pm

I suspect it’s the hubris in thinking they are addressing “climate change” issues. It’s farming. Perhaps high-tech farming but farming nonetheless.

October 17, 2016 12:56 pm

No need to modify genes. More CO2 = higher yields in photosynthesis and more drought resistance.

Stephen Richards
October 17, 2016 1:21 pm

Is there a gene for making grape skins of metal. In france one of our biggest problems is hail early, mid and late season.

michael hart
October 17, 2016 1:34 pm

Let them drink beer.

Reply to  michael hart
October 17, 2016 3:36 pm

Many beers cause bloat. Wine is wonderfully innocent of causing gastric balloons.
Plus, one can buy a case of wine and put them on their sides in a basement to age. Even lower quality wines dramatically improve in flavor rather quickly.
It kind of makes one want to put up a cask or barrel of bourbon or rye too; just to finish out the weeks ahead.
Good luck trying that with beer.
Now Stout, Porter or Draak Triple might age well.

October 17, 2016 2:19 pm

I’ll drink to…. whatever!

Pop Piasa
October 17, 2016 2:37 pm

Can these grapes be grown in Greenland? That might show we are close to previous climate optimums.

October 17, 2016 3:26 pm

“A new sequencing technology, combined with a new computer algorithm that can yield detailed information about complex genomes of various organisms, has been used to produce a high-quality draft genome sequence of cabernet sauvignon, the world’s most popular red wine grape variety, reports a UC Davis genomics expert.”

Let’s see if I understand this insanity.
Student researchers at UCal-Davis, who don’t have a clue what most of a Cabernet genes actually do; are going to use a new model to custom design a revised Cabernet that will thrive better in upcoming climate change.
Climate change which the UCal researchers do not really understand either; except if they use the magic ‘climate change’ words, they’ll get a lot of grant money.
Perhaps it is better that these researchers are working on their imaginary cabernet problem! If these folks were working in the medical field, they could kill a lot of people and still never wise up.
As others have pointed out, the local terroir, i.e. soil, drainage, sun exposure, rainfall and rain patterns, even the local beasts used to keep the weeds down; make for unique wine flavors and qualities. Especially when managed by knowledgeable vintners.
Grapevines can reach deep with their roots, allowing them to fill basic water needs in all but the worst drought conditions. During a drought, the grapes will be smaller but more flavorful.
Too much rain is a problem. Especially rain that falls late in the grape ripening season.
Which leaves one wondering just how ignorant UCal yahoos plan to design a grape to meet real world problems?

October 17, 2016 5:52 pm

I’ll drink to that!

Johann Wundersamer
October 17, 2016 7:31 pm

The one and really only info here is about
The three-pronged, proof-of-concept study used an open-source genome assembly process called FALCON-unzip, developed by Pacific Biosciences of Menlo Park, California.
There’s gifted housewives needed and wardens in night shift to do the FALCON-unzip.
Anybody with extra time may google for the fascinating rubic cube.

October 18, 2016 3:16 am

Winemaker in Norway at 59,24N lat.:
(I have some vines in my own garden a few miles south. We had days with below -20C here last winter, but grapes reappear mysteriously in the summer).
Seems like Vitis Vinifera is already quite good at adapting to differences in climate.

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