Cabernet Sauvignon is a direct descendant of an obscure Greek wine grape known as Volitsa, a new book suggests.
In Desert Island Wines, Miles Lambert-Gocs proposes that Cabernet Sauvignon made its way to Europe via the coastal region of what is now Albania. He believes this link has never been explored.
Lambert-Gocs became convinced that Volitsa was the modern name for an ancient grape called Balisca. He then found relevant references in the Roman classical texts of Pliny and Columella. When combined with visual comparisons to modern Cabernet Sauvignon, he believes this evidence is enough to merit exploring the DNA.
‘I have pointed out a solid possibility of Cabernet’s tie to antiquity and classical Greece,’ Lambert-Gocs told decanter.com. ‘It will be good to have DNA proof – sort of a “family tree” – and I have provided a jumping off point.’
However, wine boffins are sceptical.
‘I’m not convinced that there’s a close connection at all,’ said grape geneticist Carole Meredith, Professor Emerita at University of California, Davis. In 1996, Meredith discovered that Cabernet Sauvignon is a hybrid of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
She said comparisons of the DNA profiles of Volitsa Mavri and Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon did not reveal any notable similarity.
‘If there is a connection, it’s not a close one and is no closer than the connections that undoubtedly exist among dozens of European grape varieties.’
Lambert-Gocs says he wrote the chapter precisely to encourage further scientific exploration.
‘Volitsa is not identical to Cabernet Sauvignon. Rather, it is one of Cabernet Sauvignon’s ancestors, and definitely the one that can concretely tie the variety to ancient Greece,’ he said.
‘If this does not motivate ampelographers and geneticists to visit the areas of Greece and Albania that are involved, I don’t know what would.’
Written by Maggie Rosen