Sauvignon Blanc Grapevine Improvement Programme
Public Summary Reports
This quarter marks the launch of the programme, which was announced by Agriculture Minister Hon Damien O’Connor and New Zealand Wine on 9th December.
Over the January to March quarter the New Zealand wine industry’s attention turns to harvesting grapes for the current vintage. For the SB2.0 programme, the focus has been on setting up a new multi-institutional team to deliver the program’s objectives.
Membership of the programme’s Commercial and Technical Advisory groups was determined this quarter, including highly experienced members of the New Zealand wine industry and international experts.
New staff have joined BRI’s grapevine Improvement team to support the establishment of the young vines in the nursery and the identification of novel genetic traits with the potential to improve the resilience, productivity, and sustainability of Sauvignon Blanc viticulture.
Establishing a large population of diverse Sauvignon Blanc vines is the key goal of the first half of this programme. Despite starting at a difficult time in the season, plant production is now ahead of schedule. Over the summer the aim is to grow the new plantlets into strong vines that are well-prepared for winter dormancy.
After a very busy summer season, the programme has grown the collection of Sauvignon Blanc (SB) vines to 6,000 plantlets ahead of winter 2023. Leaf samples are now being collected from each plant for DNA extractions so that a database of known genetic diversity can be produced while the plants are dormant over winter.
After the success of completing production of the project’s first 6,000 new vines ahead of schedule, we were notified of a failure by the plant production subcontractor, who had mistakenly produced and delivered vines that were of the wrong grapevine variety. This will result in a time delay. All other work is progressing on schedule, including plant selection work and DNA sequencing.
As a result of the plant production failure identified last quarter, the Programme end date has been delayed by 18 months until April 2030. Plant and Food Research Ltd. have agreed to bear the cost of replacing the plants produced to date and have reached a financial settlement agreement that will ensure the programme funders are not asked to bear additional costs resulting from the delayed milestones. Production of replacement Sauvignon Blanc vines is now well underway.