Winegrowers Supplies  -  German clones of Pinot noir (Blauer Spätburgunder)

This is based on information from Forschungsanstalt Geisenheim (Rheingau), whose particular interest is in producing red wines.

The Pinot noir is very demanding of the site as well as the climate. Because of the popularity and high demand the planted area has increased rapidly worldwide, however in Germany this has been partly in unsuitable sites.

Pinot noir has above all a fine aroma with a slight almond tone, underlined with flavours hinting of raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. Traditionally it is made with crushed-berry fermentation and with malo-lactic fermentation (biological acid 'reduction'). Storage and maturation in barriques lends the wine a herby/vegetal wood note, fire and lots of charm.

Clone selections of Pinot noir can be divided into 5 groups:-
a) Compact clones
b) Loose-berried clones
c) Mixed clones
d) Upright-growing clones
e) Small-berried clones

With Pinot noir clones the 'strength' against fungus attack by botrytis cinerea plays a very  significant roll. When desiring to produce a high value red wine the percentage of grapes affected by botrytis cinerea must be less than 5% of the grapes processed. Pinot noir wines are extremely sensitive to the phenoloxydase LACCASE, an enzyme that is excreted from the botrytis cinerea fungus. It is responsible for maturation affects (unpleasant ageing/maturation tones, nuts, over-ripe plums, glue...) and for yellowing.

a) The compact clones:  almost all French clones have a compact grape-bunch structure. As they swell the berries are pressed against each other, especially in strong-growing soils and in times with heavy-downpours of rain. The developing fissures create an ideal environment for grapes infected with the fungus botrytis cinerea, which then become of no use for red wine production. Because of the high sensitivity to botrytis the compact clones should only be planted in dry flat-ground sites.

The French clones 777, 667, 927, 792, 872, 870, 386 are ones to follow, also 115, 114, 113, which are slightly more resistant to botrytis. These 10 clones have a high quality potential. Within the French clones only relatively small differences can be observed.

Other French clones 388, 389, 668, 236, 780, 665, 292, 111 are the most sensitive to botrytis and are inclined towards high yields. They are not recommended for planting in Germany.

The advantage of the compact clones is due to the better ratio between fruit-flesh and berry-skins, so that a higher aroma and colour-extraction can be obtained. In most years the German winegrower must accept a very high loss from a strong botrytis attack. Otherwise the botrytis infection means selective harvesting is necessary which takes much more picking time.

Compact clones, from Germany: Freiburg Fr 52-86, Fr 54-102, Fr 52-78, Fr 10, Fr 11;
Geisenheim 18 Gm; Frank 105; Laimburg L64, L69; SMA185, SMA191, SMA201.

b) The loose-berried clones:  these possess a less tight grape-bunch structure, eg. the stalk-structure is longer, so that the berries almost never burst at the same time.

The main advantage of the loose-berries is the resistance to botrytis, even in heavy-rain years such as 2001. For these clones the ratio between fruit-flesh and berry-skin with the aim of producing quality wine seems to be less advantageous; in Germany in most years the quality of the compact clones still outweighs the advantage of the botrytis-resistance of the loose-berried clones. In compensation for this disadvantage the significantly lower rot allows a longer ripening of up to 3 weeks compared with the compact-clones.

With these clones one can differentiate the M-type (Mariafeld clones from Wadenswil) and the Gm-type (from Geisenheim) from others:-

Mariafeld M-type; Geisenheim Gm-type 1-x Gm (eg. 1-1 Gm, 1-6 Gm, 1-11 Gm, 1-44 Gm, 1-53 Gm, 1-55 Gm, 1-84 Gm): with larger bunch-structure, longer stalks; average botrytis-infection 8-10 %; very high yield; high acidity; sour-cherry aroma (perhaps not desirable in a classic Pinot Noir red wine); however, the Geisenheim clones have much lower acidity than the Mariafeld clones, so are suited for red wine.
The Mariafeld clones may be very interesting for Sparkling Wine.

Others: Weinsberg M1, M847, M898; Freiburg Fr 12L, Fr 13 L; Auer 2107: with smaller stalk-structure but loose bunch-structure; average botrytis-infection 3-5 %; high yield; lower acidity; aromatic like compact clones.

To produce Spätburgunder red wines on sites with deep rich soils it is advantageous to plant  the loose-berried Gm-Type clones (a recommendation from Geisenheim), although these do not have the typical Pinot noir aroma (which some Mariafeld clones have).

c) Mixed clones:  The clones Frank 105S and 20-13 Gm provide an interesting alternative. According to reports these are only 'compact' in certain years. In other years they have a loose-berried bunch structure. The Gm clones have relatively lower acidity.

d) The upright-growing clones:  the main advantage of these clones is their easy working nature and upright growth. Leaf-work is easy to complete because of the upright growth, the grape-bunch zone is free from leaves because of lower side-shoot growth. The bunches are compact however due to the good air flow through the grape-bunch zone they are as resistant to botrytis as the loose-berried clones. The disadvantage of these clones is very late beginning to the ripening as well as the comparatively higher must-acidity.
Upright-growing clones are well suited for the production of base wine for Crémant also for Pinot noir wines 'vinified white'.

e) The small-berried clones:  the berries of these clones are very small, for that reason the relationship between fruit and berry-skin is especially interesting in reaching a high aroma and colour extraction. The small-berry grape-bunch structure in most years suffers only a low botrytis attack, as the berries are not squashed against each other. On average the botrytis infection of the small-berried clones is similar to that of the loose-berried M-Type clones. Their yield lies 30 to 50% below that of the Mariafeld klones, that is in the realms of the production of some French clones, for example the 115. As regards ripening potential the small-berried clones are better than the compact French clones.

Small-berried clones are well suited for production of high-value red wines. Due to the good botrytis resistance these clones can also be planted in deep and rich soils. Because of the high demand for these plants it is at present very difficult to buy them.
The small-berried clones come from Freiburg (EA 86-1, EA 86-3, EA 86-6, EA 86-11, EA 96-126, EA 79-80, EA 79-83, EA 93-69, EA 93-58, EA 96-132, EA 96-138, EA 96-143) or from Geisenheim (20-19 Gm, 20-16 Gm, 20-20 Gm, 20-26 Gm, 20-27 Gm).