Spanish Wine Researchers Work to Preserve Rare Grape Varieties Reply

Fernando Martinez Toda

With 70% of the world’s wines coming from just 30 varieties, researchers started protecting the genetic diversity of grapes

Twenty-five years ago Fernando Martínez de Toda began to notice what he calls the “Coca-Cola-isation” of the wine market. Everywhere the agricultural engineer looked, he saw the same few grapes dominating the wine market: cabernet sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay.

For Martínez de Toda, based at the University of La Rioja in one of Spain’s best-known wine regions, the problem hit particularly close to home. Vineyards across Spain were being restructured at a rapid pace. “People were taking out lesser-known varieties to put in French varieties or better-known Spanish ones like tempranillo.”

The changes around him were being reflected on a global scale, with some 70% of the world’s wines coming from just 30 grape varieties. He decided he would start stowing away rare indigenous grape varieties with the goal of preserving as much diversity as he could. “People called us crazy, but we were losing them without even knowing what we were losing,” he said. “We decided just to keep it somewhere and see if we could find a future use for it.”


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Rare Spanish grapes


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