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The origin, diversity and domestication of the grape

Where do grapevines come from? Can their diversity improve the resistance of grape cultivars to diseases? In a study from Cornell University–Genetic structure and domestication history of the grape–the authors support the archaeological origin of the grape, look at the relationship between its domesticated cultivars and its wild ancestor, and study its change in genetic diversity along its journey to the west, as well as how it can help finding approaches that can generate improved disease-resistant grape cultivars.

The grape, which has been domesticated since antiquity as species Vitis vinifera subsp. vinifera, is primarily processed into wine, but also as juice or consumed as table grapes. It is thought that its cultivation started 6,000–8,000 years ago in the Near East (in the South Caucasus between the Caspian and Black Seas, before spreading to Egypt around 5,000 years ago) from its wild ancestor, Vitis vinifera subsp. sylvestris. Since that time, the 10,000+ cultivars we know of today come from vegetative propagation and crosses.

This diversity, which vinifera retained at high levels since its domestication, remains relatively unexploited within an extended pedigree, and could be one solution to the various grape pathogens we witness these days, and which are subject to an extensive use of chemicals.

The authors deduct from this data that only a small number of cultivars were involved in grape breeding, and therefore that there are still a lot of possible genetic combinations that remains to be explored within vinifera due to the considerable genetic diversity which has been maintained in the grape during its long history of domestication. This concept of “hub”, pattern found in network theory in general, is represented here by a small number of cultivars being highly connected (while most cultivars have only one or two first degree connections), and representing the most used (and therefore ancient) cultivars for breeding.

Finally, the authors define the process of vegetative propagation during grape breeding as a “double-edged sword”: needed to produce quality wines by controlling genetic variability, it seems to have discouraged the breeding of new cultivars, which would at least explain partially why the worldwide grape industry is “dominated by cultivars sharing extensive coancestry” (among other factors such as diseases like phylloxera for instance).

The authors emphasize the usefulness of studies genetically characterizing the world’s germplasms collections (such as this one), and applying specific techniques (such as marker-assisted breeding) to improve the resistance of grape cultivars to diseases as well as developing an environmentally sustainable wine and grape industry.

The Wine Botany Manifesto

The Wine Botany Manifesto


We believe in more knowledge. There’s a lot of misinformation out there that both oversimplifies and overcomplicates wine. We believe that everyone can enjoy wine­—but it’s worth spending the time to learn about its complexities and how it’s made in order to gain a richer appreciation.

We are advocates for better wine drinking. When you take the step to learn more about wine, you open yourself up to more and better options. You can pinpoint your personal tastes, and choose higher-quality products that are better for your health and the environment.

We care for the planet and the people. The best wines come from a strong partnership between nature and people: a prosperous terroir + knowledgeable winemakers who respect the natural growing process. This is why we promote wines that care for the earth and its inhabitants.

We embrace a holistic approach to wine. We want to examine all aspects of wine—from grape cultivation and the winemaking process to environmental impact and the body’s reaction—and study how the different factors are interconnected and affect each other.

We strive for a better quality of life. Ultimately, we do what we do in order to improve our day-to-day lives. We want to share how truly good wine—as well as related topics of food, culture, and travel—can enrich our lives in small and big ways.

Kings County Distillery

It was when I was looking for a bottle of moonshine at Astor Wines that I heard about Kings County Distillery. The simple but effective packaging of those little flask-like bottles grabbed my attention, and the product is actually quite good. Curious about this place, I decided to take the tour.

Located in Dumbo about a 10-minute walk from the F train York Street Station, Kings County Distillery is New York City’s oldest operating whiskey distillery, the first since prohibition. They set up operations in the 117-year-old Paymaster Building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. But don’t let the location fool you, this distillery was founded in… 2010!

The casual and very enjoyable tour started with the history of the distillery, followed by an interesting recap of the history of alcohol in America in their “Boozeum.”

That’s where I learned about a lot of cool stuff like the Brooklyn Whiskey Wars.

An illustration from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper that depicts soldiers raiding an illegal distillery in Brooklyn in 1869. (© Bettmann/CORBIS).

The tour continued to the distilling room, where their traditional distilling equipment operates using the alchemy of transforming New York grain into their delicious products…

…and the storage room where the magic of aging happens.

And last but not least, time to taste their award-winning spirits! Amongst my favorites: Moonshine, Peated Bourbon and Chocolate-Flavored Whiskey (infused with real cacao nibs).

Kings County Distillery is definitely worth a visit, and if you have a little extra time, stop by the Gatehouses to have one of their cocktails. Cheers!

For more details and tours, read more on the Kings County Distillery website here.

Healing Spirits: the botany and herbalism of Aperitifs and Digestifs

Discover the history and botanical make up of some of the most famous Aperitive and Digestive spirits, and the impact these drinks have on our organism.

Saturday October 28, 2017 – 2pm-4pm
@ The New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10458


The centuries-old botanical history of aperitifs and digestifs, from Chartreuse to Fernet Branca, stems in part from a monastic quest to divine an “elixir of long life.” Many cultures still commonly consume these herbal drinks, made of complex mixtures of plant material, for their unique flavor profiles and for their medicinal properties. As you taste selected aperitifs and digestifs, discover their botany and discuss the physiological impacts each have on human health. 21+

About the presenter

Tremeur Arbor grew up in France, where he studied music, biology, and wine. Since moving to New York in 1998, he has worked in the food and wine industry, founded the Vinoteria social network, and now studies botany and herbalism. More recently, Tremeur created Wine Botany, which invites people to explore wine-from the plant and its terroir to its role in culture and lifestyle, and how the body reacts to its components. Through its comprehensive and holistic approach, Wine Botany cares for the planet, as well as for people’s health and wellness.

Healing Spirits: the botany and herbalism of Aperitives and Digestives

Discover the history and botanical make up of some of the most famous Aperitive and Digestive spirits, and the impact these drinks have on our organism.

Thursday March 9, 2017 – 7pm
@ Sacred Waters, 5-35 51st Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101
$65 before March 1st, $75 from March 1st

From Fernet Branca to Suze, Aperitives and Digestives are on the shelves of every liquor store, and in many cultures are served as everyday drinks—by themselves or in cocktails. But though the purpose they serve today is mostly for enjoyment, these herbal drinks and their history (some dating back to centuries ago) also reveal important medicinal properties.

Through this class you will learn about (and taste) some of today’s major aperitive and digestive spirits, the herbs and plants they’re composed of, and—through their medicinal actions—their physiological impact on your health.

About the presenter

Tremeur Arbor grew up in France where he studied music and biology, and where folkloric herbalism and wine are an everyday part of life. Living in New York since 1998 where he studies botany and herbalism, he founded the Vinoteria social network and more recently Wine Botany, which explores wine from the plant and its land—including its culture and lifestyle—to the winemaking and practical processes as well as how your body deals with its components. Through its comprehensive and holistic approach, Wine Botany cares for the planet, and for people’s health and wellness.

Wine Botany

Wine Botany is an advocate for better wine drinking. Its mission is to help you enjoy wine to the fullest extent and to share how the wine creation process impacts your health.

Through its holistic approach to wine–which takes into consideration the whole instead of its parts independently–Wine Botany explores wine from the plant and its land—including its culture and lifestyle—to the winemaking and practical processes as well as how your body deals with its components.

Our goal is to not only help you identify the wines that match your tastes, but also the ones that are the most suitable for your health.