Cabernet Sauvignon,South Africa,Wine

Cabernet labrusco – The creation of an indigenous red grapevine variety

[All images are from Dr. Jeronimo Rodriques.]
Cabernet labrusco is the successful creation of a brand new red grapevine variety, which has recently been achieved in South Africa, called ‘Cabernet labrusco.’ This makes it an indigenous grape to South Africa.

From his Cabernet labrusco Website:

In 1994, Dr. Jeronimo Rodrigues crossed two Vitis vinifera cultivars. He used what he calls a rather obscure variety called Danugue. It’s also known as Black Barbarossa, Barbarossa, or Gros Guillaume as the pollen parent, and well-known Cabernet Sauvignon as the seed parent.

Rather than changing any of the information that he has sent to me about his variety, I’m going to share in its entirety… Most especially for my viticultural and winemaking friends, because it’s purely scientific.

From Jerry Rodrigues

It should be noted from the start that Cabernet labrusco bears no relationship (genetically or otherwise) with any of the American Vitis labrusca species (the former has an ‘o’ at the end of its name). Furthermore, Cabernet labrusco is also unrelated (genetically or otherwise) to the northern Italian Lambrusco grapevine species from the Emilia-Romagna region (the former has no ‘m’ in the middle of its name).

Now that it is clear that Cabernet labrusco is NOT a hybrid cultivar NOR has it been derived from any Italian varieties, we can state that this new cultivar was the result of crossing two ‘French’ cultivars.

I have registered the new variety with South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries.

One of the reasons for using the name ‘labrusco’ was simply because the resultant wine looks like Lambrusco (having a deep ruby-red color) and the Microsatellite DNA analysis shows it could harbor some disease-resistance genes also found in Vitis labrusca.

Another reason why I adopted this name was that ‘labrusco’ in the Portuguese language (my ancestors were Portuguese) can be interpreted to mean ‘uneducated, rough or rude’, but I have taken it to rather imply that there could be some ‘primitive (primeval)’ or ‘wild’ grape disease-resistance characteristics in this new cultivar.

I noticed certain similarities in some of the microsatellite DNA markers (also known as Simple Sequence Repeats or SSRs). One of the microsatellite loci present in Cabernet labrusco, known as VVMD7, is 234 base pairs (bp) long.

This ‘short’ VVMD7 is also present in some Italian ‘Lambrusco’ accessions as well as in some American varieties, specifically those derived from Vitis labrusca (e.g. Catawba, Concord, Isabella etc.).

It is also noteworthy that both the Lambrusco cultivars and Vitis labrusca are thought to have inherited disease-resistance genes from their wild parent counterparts. In the first case, wild genes from a species of Vitis vinifera subspecies sylvestris has introgressed into the Lambrusco genome. In the second case, it is well-known that the wild American Vitis labruscana species harbor certain disease-resistance genes. So, hopefully, a VVMD7 of 234 bp may turn out to be an interesting disease-resistance marker. As is now well known, from the many Microsatellite SSR databases, a VVMD7 with a DNA size of about 234 bp occurs to an extent of less than five percent, when all of the commercial Vitis vinifera cultivars are taken into account.


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