Grapevines resistant to Pierce’s disease are gaining recognition

Growers and winemakers are beginning to invest in new grape varieties that promise resistance to Pierce’s disease. The bacterium, which is spread by glassy-winged shooters, is difficult to prevent without insecticides.

A UCLA researcher bred five varieties in 2020 and held demonstration days at an Ojai vineyard that served as a test site. Cross-breeding of grapes led to a new variety of wine, as well as new challenges in gaining consumer acceptance, according to UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. The grape was bred using cultivars in northern Mexico that have natural resistance to Pierce’s disease and have relatively neutral flavor characteristics.

In a blog post from the University of California Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ojai Vineyards owner Adam Tolmach said the grape varieties are “worthwhile and special.”

“People expect hybrids not to be good,” he said. “They taste different, but they are an example of what exists outside of Cabernet and Chardonnay. People are interested in the incomprehensible and ecologically more reasonable.”

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