On-farm inventory of minor grape varieties in the European Vitis Database

Activity Coordinator: Erika Maul  Email

The project "On-farm inventory of minor grape varieties in the European Vitis Database (GrapeOnFarm)", submitted by the Vitis Working Group for funding under the Third Call of the Activity Grant Scheme, was selected by the Executive Committee and approved in May 2016.

“Not at all easy to drink what shall be preserved” (Thomas Riedl – wine amateur)


July 2018
The database on “Rare traditional varieties on-farm” is now online (here).

March 2018
The final Activity report is now available

Summary of results:
The Activity was aimed at conservation and utilization of minor traditional varieties. The project was implemented during 2017.
To achieve the objective, an inquiry form with 52 questions was developed describing the wine grower, the preserved variety, cultivation aspects and commitments. At the end of the project year, eight countries were able to provide the data of 177 vineyards conserving traditional varieties. A large number of vineyards was recorded by the Spanish participant (97). This huge number was due to a national Spanish project including more than 70 experts in viticulture and oenology, financed by the Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria and launched in 2012. Further vineyard data were gathered by Albania (16), Montenegro (14), Croatia (13), Germany (13), France (11), Portugal (5), Serbia (5) and Austria (3).
The on-farm descriptor data of the 177 vineyards will be included in the European Vitis Database.
National procedures for registration of minor cultivars turned out to be country-specific and highly diverse. As for cultivation and marketing of minor varieties in the EU, their prior registration is mandatory; it was suggested that governments should all adopt the rules of those countries where an easy registration is currently possible.

December 2017
There are urgent reasons to advance the process for legal inclusion of rare historical varieties in national variety catalogues, respectively to initiate modification of the EU Regulation in that regard as well.
A survey carried out by the ECPGR GrapeOnFarm group revealed a large heterogeneity and disparity between the countries’ legislations. To assist governments in finding a solution and involving the European Commission, the experts of the ECPGR GrapeOnFarm group made a proposition on the ideal preconditions in that matter.
The table below provides the countries national procedures and a green column suggesting how legislation may be adapted to achieve safeguard of rare historical varieties.

November 2017
Results and future plans:

Following the discussions during the workshop two tables were elaborated.
They describe:

  • criteria to determine vulnerability of rare historical varieties
  • national procedures for inclusion of a minor variety in the national variety catalogue

On-Farm Descriptor data will be made available to the public.

  • On-farm descriptor data collected so far will be sent to the Coordinator of the Activity until 15 December 2017
  • Publication of on-farm descriptor data in the European Vitis Database
  • Continuation in encouraging wine growers to be part of the network

October 2017
The GrapeOnFarm partners met at the Institute for Grapevine Breeding (Geilweilerhof, Germany) on 10 October 2017. Reports focused on the main topics: announcement of the initiative to establish an inventory of growers of minor grape cultivars, feedback from growers, descriptors and national procedures for registering minor grape varieties.
The outcome is summarized below.
To reach wine growers a short and simple text was elaborated. It was then translated by the partners and adapted to the specific conditions of the participating wine growing countries. The text was disseminated via professional press media. In addition the GrapeOnFarm initiative was presented at diverse occasions, like meetings of wine growers associations, at conferences or grapevine symposiums. Each country found further possibilities to communicate the undertaking, e.g. via non-profit organizations and networks of grapevine collections.
Even though huge efforts were made, in most of the countries feedback from wine growers was close to zero. Best results were achieved in Albania, Montenegro and Serbia. The participants agreed that the direct contact with each wine grower might achieve the best results. Reasons for the lack of interest by wine growers were discussed, e.g. additional work, too many descriptors, no benefit for the wine grower to be listed on the European level, fear of control, because some of the varieties are not on the national list.
Some of the on-farm descriptors were slightly modified. The four categories were accepted: grower (12 descriptors), variety preserved (17 descriptors), vineyard description (17 descriptors) and commitments (6 descriptors). The final list is available below.
The question “which varieties can be considered as minor cultivars” was discussed. Criteria determining the degree of threat of minor cultivars will be assembled according to a table in the Green Book, Indigenous Grape Varieties of Croatia (Maletic et al. 2015, available here). The area planted with grapevine in each country will be considered.
National procedures for registration of minor cultivars were presented by each participating country. Similarities are given, like the use of DUS-criteria and the assessment of the agronomic and technical value of a variety in nearly all countries. However the possibilities allowing cultivation and marketing of minor varieties not included in the national lists and alternative legislation to easily register the rare and historical varieties are country-specific and highly diverse. Some countries follow a more liberal way. The participants of the workshop agreed that a prerequisite for a successful preservation of minor varieties on farm is to adapt the rules from countries where to date an easy registration is possible. In that context, Italy has the most advanced legislation.

May 2017
Activities for the establishment of the inventory of on-farm producers in the European Vitis Database are underway.
According to the situation in the countries, different approaches are followed to reach growers: dissemination of the objectives of the on-farm activity via growers’ magazines or other media, presentation of the initiative at various conferences and meetings which are attended by producers, and through direct contact with the wine growers. First contacts with wine growers reveal that there is an interest to support the on-farm objectives.
Five categories of descriptors were compiled by the participants of the Activity. They document the grower’s contact data and locality (12 descriptors), inform about the variety preserved and for what reason the cultivar was chosen, how it was identified (13 descriptors), provide a detailed description of the vineyard maintenance and sanitary aspects (16 descriptors), display commitments of the growers and criteria related to the database (6 descriptors each). A final discussion on the choice of descriptors will take place during the workshop to be held on 10 October 2017, after having interviewed the first farmers.

February 2017
European activities on grape germplasm safeguard raised the awareness of wine growers about the existence of forgotten varieties. As a consequence the wine sector is increasingly interested in minor and neglected grape varieties. An inventory of on-farm producers is intended as a framework addressed to grape growers and nurseries, wine consumers, wine merchants and journalists. Besides the effective utilization of the rare germplasm, its monitoring is envisaged as well.
To reach out potential interested parties, a text describing the activity and encouraging wine growers to join the initiative was prepared for publication in wine growers’ magazines.
A first draft of descriptors for on-farm maintenance was established and will be circulated among Activity partners. Concepts of “minor varieties” and “on-farm” will also be discussed in the specific case of grapevine. An on-farm section will be implemented in the European Vitis Database, based on these descriptors. The given information should enable the exchange of experience, supplement preservation of uncommon genetic resources, facilitate access to propagation material and inform wine consumers where to find the products of rare varieties.
In addition it is aimed to provide a proposal for a legal framework for minor grape cultivars not included in national variety lists, to facilitate legal cultivation and trade of wines.

ECPGR Vitis Working Group