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24, chemin de Borde Rouge -Auzeville - CS52627 31326 Castanet Tolosan cedex - France

Last update: May 2021

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Missions of Grapevine BRC

The activities of the Vassal-Montpellier collection, entirely devoted to grapevine genetic resources, are built on three main axes

  • Conservation and management of genetic resources
  • Characterization of the grapevine accessions maintained
  • Valorization of plant material and hosted records

The Grapevine BRC is labelled as such by GIS IBiSA since 2011

Conservation and management of genetic resources

After a one-year multiplication phase in the greenhouse, each grapevine accession introduced in the repository is maintained as five plants per accession at least. The number of accessions (clones) per variety varies: from about ten for traditional varieties widely cultivated globally to a single accession for many foreign varieties or for recent ones.

The practical management of the collection entails continuous work for plot renewal and the replacement of missing plants. These replacements are performed mostly through cuttings or sometimes by layering. These multiplication techniques, rarely used in other vineyards nowadays, can still be performed in this sandy soil.

Grafting is performed only occasionally for varieties displaying low vigor due to endoparasitic nematodes in the genus Meloidogyne, nematodes that are not virus vectors.

Greenhouses and a field nursery allow managing all plantings necessary for maintaining the collection.

To ensure resources long-term maintenance, a safety duplicate has been implemented for part of the collection (insect-proof greenhouses). Likewise, a European network and a French network of grapevine repositories are parts of the strategy contributing towards long-term preservation of grapevine genetic resources.

Characterization and study of genetic resources

Knowledge of plant material identity and potential is pivotal to the whole vine and wine industry. The study of grapevine collections thus allows answering different requests by scientists, breeders, professionals in the grapevine industry and by the general public.  For each accession included in the collection, we perform the following:

  • An ampelographic description, which describes the morphological characteristics allowing the identification of each variety. This identification involves the recording of both qualitative and quantitative data. Adult leaves from each accession are then dried and placed in the herbarium. Codes currently used for ampelographic description have been standardized at international level (Bioversity, UPOV-OCVV, OIV codes). Variety description must be as precise as possible in order to be useful later on. Identification is a permanent activity without which a collection loses its reliability and its value as a reference. After the identification, a list of synonyms for each variety is established and/or updated.
  • Phenological observations (dates of bud break, flowering, véraison and ripening) which allow estimating the potential adaptability of varieties to different « terroirs ».
  • An evaluation of a set of agronomical data (sex, vigour, bearing, fertility, resistance to grey mold, berry and bunch weight, yield…) for evaluating their potential interest.
  • An estimate of the technological potential of wine grapes: some simple analyses are performed on experimental harvests, and then on wines obtained through micro-vinification. Table grape quality is also assessed (taste, color, presence of seeds…).
  • Photographing of the extremity of young shoots, adult leaves, of flowers, bunches and berries. Domaine de Vassal thus holds a uniquely rich photographic library.
  • An evaluation of sanitary status, through ELISA tests performed by IFV.
  • Genetic (DNA) analysis using molecular markers (20 microsatellites): these are powerful tools for plant material identification and traceability. These studies also support a better knowledge of the extent of Vitis vinifera variability and allow a better assessment of the structuration of groups of related varieties. These analyses are performed in the DAAV (grapevine genetics, adaptation and breeding) team (joint research unit AGAP, Montpellier).

Valorization of the genetic resources maintained

The plant material maintained is regularly distributed, within the current regulatory framework, to a diverse audience: growers, nursery operators, breeders, professional bodies in the grapevine industry, researchers, hobbyists…. Thus, 500 varieties in average are shipped yearly to locations in France or to foreign countries.

In addition, the Vassal-Montpellier grapevine BRC is regularly approached to provide information on grapevine varieties from its records:  morphological, agronomical or technological characteristics; photos; bibliography reviews, etc.

Finally, the collection constitutes an exceptional source of parental lines necessary for creating new varieties. In former times, the hybridization and first steps of the selection were performed on site.  The following steps were then performed in several locations with several professional partners. The varieties resulting from these early breeding programs conducted jointly by Domaine de Vassal and INRA Montpellier are as follows:

  • Table grapes :
    • white grapes : Ora ; Perlaut ; Danlas ; Danam ; Datal ; Isa
    • black grapes : Lival ; Delhro ; Ribol ; Carla ; Prima ; Alval
    • seedless white grapes : Danuta ; Madina
    • seedless black grapes : Alvina
  • Wine grapes:
    • White : Chasan ; Clarin ; Aranel
    • Black : Caladoc ; Marselan ; Portan ; Ganson ; Chenanson ; Gramon ; Monerac ; Ségalin.

Nowadays, the programs for innovative varieties breeding in which the grapevine BRC is involved, in the frame of UMT Géno-Vigne®, are driven by IFV National Centre for Plant material and the INRA station in Colmar.