Phone: 646-515-4296  

Wine Uncorked

What's a Clone?

What’s a Clone?

Thankfully, a grape clone is much more benign that the word suggests.  It’s not the sort of fruit created by mad scientists in a lab, but instead a variation on a grape that’s been asexually reproduced from the “mother vine.”


For example, a vineyard manager might have noticed that a cluster of grapes was looser than its neighbor (a good quality for air circulation and, thus, less mildew.) In a damp climate, this might be a desirable trait and the vineyard manager wants more vines like that.


So, through cutting or grafting, this vine’s unique quality – a natural mutation – can thus be propagated.


Other characteristics that a winemaker may want to bring out in a vine might be larger or smaller fruit, disease resistance, maturation rate, or a particular color or aroma.


To get an idea of the variety offered, here is a summary of several pinot noir clones:


113 has notes of plum, cherry and cedar with a medium weight and firm tannins.
114 (the most widely planted) has notes of blueberry, mineral, cola and spice. It can be fuller-bodied than the 113 clone.
667 shows notes of dark cherry, black tea, warm earth. It is medium-bodied with soft tannins.
999 is full-bodied with medium tannins and flavors of black cherry, cassis and licorice.


Pinot noir is perhaps the most-cloned varietal.  It’s prone to mutation, so variables occur with some frequency.  There are likely hundreds of pinot clones; France officially recognizes over 50 of them.  Cabernet sauvignon, in contrast, has about 25 recognized clones.


White grapes also get cloned.  For example, California recognizes 70+ variations on chardonnay, though only 22 of sauvignon blanc.


To learn more, Bell Wine Cellars has a good description of clones that includes a comparison of three different cabernet berries.  This Chicago Tribune story also breaks it down nicely; the above summary of pinot noir clones was adapted from this article.  A final thanks to Lange Twins Winery & Vineyards  for the photo.




Comments are closed.