Matt Clark is an assistant professor of horticulture and enology at the University of Minnesota. He heads up the U of M participation in VitisGen2, a multi-institutional grape breeding collaboration that has a goal to breed new resistant grape varieties that taste delicious and can be grown with far less pesticide use than standard European grapes. Matt is at the cutting edge of the academic efforts that may result in the next great truly American wine from actual American grapes.
The relevance of the ideas that Matt addresses cannot be overstated. The current wine industry around the world is built on a handful of varieties of the same species of grape. These varieties have not changed for hundreds of years while the viruses, fungi, and insects that prey upon those grapevines have continued to evolve and adapt. Some day – and that day is rapidly approaching – there will be a reckoning. New virus and fungal pressures will eventually overcome our ability to successfully grow these out-dated varieties without massive amounts of crutches – chemical or otherwise.
The main hurdle to allowing grapes – and therefore wine – to adapt, is consumer perception created by pervasively marketed ideas of the supremacy of European varieties. In this conversation we talk about what Matt and other scientists are doing to create the future of wine, and I hope that it will help open your eyes to the immense potential and many options that are becoming available for grape growers and wine lovers if we expand our pallets and begin to embrace the change that is necessary to advance wine. Enjoy!