Vint Podcast

Vint Podcast Ep. 129: The DNA of Wine – Renowned Grape Geneticist José Vouillamoz

In our latest episode of The Vint Podcast, we had the privilege of hosting Dr. José Vouillamoz, a leading figure in the world of grape genetics. As wine enthusiasts, we often marvel at the diversity of flavors and characteristics in our favorite wines, but have you ever wondered about the parents of the most well-known grape varieties? Dr. Vouillamoz takes us on a journey through the intricate world of grape DNA, revealing fascinating insights about the origins and relationships of various grape varieties.

Dr. Vouillamoz’s work in DNA profiling has revolutionized our understanding of viticulture. By analyzing specific regions of the grape’s DNA, researchers can identify grape varieties with remarkable accuracy. This technique has not only helped in authenticating grape varieties but also in uncovering the parentage of some of the most famous grapes in the world. For instance, did you know that Sangiovese, a staple in Italian wines, has one parent from Tuscany and another from Calabria? Or that Syrah is a grandchild of Pinot?

One of the key takeaways from our conversation is the importance of maintaining genetic diversity in vineyards. Dr. Vouillamoz explains how this diversity can provide resilience against climate change and diseases. By preserving and cultivating a wide range of clones within a grape variety, winemakers can ensure the longevity and health of their vineyards. This approach not only protects the vines but also enhances the complexity and quality of the wine.

Throughout the interview, Dr. Vouillamoz shares captivating stories from his research. From discovering the parentage of obscure Swiss grape varieties to collaborating with Jancis Robinson on the comprehensive book “Wine Grapes,” his passion for grape genetics is evident. These stories highlight the blend of science and history that makes viticulture such a fascinating field.

As we look ahead, the advancements in grape genetics hold immense potential for the wine industry. Techniques like whole genome sequencing are becoming more accessible and affordable, allowing for deeper insights into clonal differences and the genetic makeup of grape varieties. This knowledge can inform better viticultural practices and lead to the development of new, resilient grape varieties.

Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or a casual enthusiast, this episode offers a wealth of knowledge about the genetic foundations of your favorite wines. Tune in to The Vint Podcast and join us as we uncover the mysteries of grape genetics with Dr. José Vouillamoz.


00:52 Special Guest Introduction: José Vouillamoz, the Foremost Grape Geneticist

02:02 Weekend Wine Tasting Adventures and Discoveries

07:57 Diving Deep into Grape Genetics with José Vouillamoz

08:41 Jose’s Journey into Grape Genetics and DNA Profiling

11:09 Unveiling the Origins of Swiss Grape Varieties

13:17 The Impact of DNA Profiling on Wine Genetics and Regional Identities

18:35 Exploring the Foundational Grape Varieties and Their Global Influence

21:35 The Genesis of the Wine Grapes Book with Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding

24:50 Founder Grape Varieties and Their Significance

25:04 Exploring the Roots: The Ancestry of Famous Grape Varieties

26:46 The Science Behind DNA Profiling in Viticulture

35:02 The Impact of Genetic Diversity on Wine Varieties and Climate Adaptation

41:11 The Future of Viticulture: Clonal Identification and Terroir Expression

46:38 The Role of Rootstocks in Combating Climate Change

48:45 Leveraging Genetics for Improved Winemaking and Vineyard Management

51:55 Preserving Rare Varieties and the Importance of Storytelling in Wine

53:29 Concluding Thoughts and the Value of Local Varieties

Image Credit: Trink Magazine

Head of Wine & Spirits Education

Billy Galanko, DipWSET