A vineyard’s soil influences the microbiome of a grapevine

Merlot grapevines

The grapevine microbiome mirrors that found in a vineyard's soil, a new study finds.

Jacob Childrey/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Just as humans have a world of microbes inside them, so do grapevines. These bacteria and fungi may influence the grape’s resilience against drought, susceptibility to pests, the wine-making process and possibly the flavor and feel of the wine itself. For Merlot vines, soil microbes appear occupy prime real estate on the grapes, leaves and flowers of the plant, researchers report March 24 in mBio.  The find adds scientific credence to the idea that vineyards have unique “terroirs” that shape the taste of wine.

Over the course of two growing seasons, the team sampled and analyzed four Merlot grape cultivars growing in five different vineyards on Long Island, New York. Microbe communities living on the grapes, leaves and flowers were similar to those found underground at each vineyard. The same held true for sampled Merlot grapes at vineyards in France and California.

Though further chemical analyses are needed, soil microbes may add that certain je ne sais quoi to Merlot grapes.

Helen Thompson is the multimedia editor. She has undergraduate degrees in biology and English from Trinity University and a master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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