October 20, 2017

San Francisco Chronicle Rips Hybrid Wine Grapes

A story today in the San Francisco Chronicle has created a controversy for two words (or maybe it’s just one word?) that has been since removed from the article: Frankengrapes.

As the story details, wine grape researchers are very reluctant to admit that genetic engineering could improve wine grapes.  In the Chronicle story, it’s implied that genetic engineering is currently being used to create vines that are resistant to Pierce’s Disease, a serious threat to the California wine industry.

Traditional selective breeding has not been successful to produce a satisfactory grape that is resistant to Pierce’s Disease.  According to the Chronicle writer, these Pierce resistant wines taste like “Manichewitz…or musky Catawba wines that are tasted at wineries off interstates in Indiana or Pennsylvania.”

Is there anything more insufferable than a California wine writer who has never had a quality wine from an emerging wine region, because, well, “we Californians just don’t drink that.”

The bottom line for the Midwest is efforts are underway to create cold hardy wine grapes in the lab that have desirable characteristics like “normal” acidity and tannins.  Some Missouri researchers have declined to speak with Midwest Wine Press reporters, probably for the same reason The San Francisco Chronicle had to remove “Frankengrapes” from of their story.

However, these same researchers are reportedly discussing their progress at select regional conferences. So it’s just a matter of time before plant scientists create cold hardy grapes that taste like vinifera.  This raises a whole host of issues that we look forward to covering.  We think it would be great if California breaks the stigma of genetically engineered grapes so we can reap the benefits here.

See: Can Andy Walker Save California Wine?

Editor’s Note: If any Chronicle folks are reading this, you left “Frakengrapes” in the URL for your article.






About Mark Ganchiff

Mark Ganchiff is the publisher of Midwest Wine Press, the leading source of news on the growing wine industry in the central United States. Mark has been a wine judge at the 2012 and 2014 INDY International Wine Competition, the 2014 Cold Climate Wine Competition, the 2013 Mid-American Wine Competition, the 2012 Illinois State Fair Wine Competition and the 2013 Michigan Wine Competition. He also enjoys speaking at wine events including the Cold Climate Wine Conference, the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association Annual Meeting, the Midwest Grape and Wine Conference and the Wisconsin Fruit and Vegetable Conference. Mark’s articles about regional wine have appeared in Vineyard & Winery Management, WineMaker and several regional magazines.
Mark is a Level One Sommelier in the Court of Master Sommeliers. He lives in Louisville, but also has a residence in Chicago.