PIWI wines: what are resistant varieties?

vitigni piwi

What are Piwi wines? Which grape varieties are considered Piwi? How are Piwi wines produced and why are they important? Which ones are most common in Italy? What is meant by resistant varieties?

If you’re curious to learn more about this topic, read the article, and you’ll discover all the details of this fascinating world.

1. What are Piwi wines, and when did they originate?

The history of Piwi grape varieties dates back to crosses between different species of Vitis developed in France between 1880 and 1935. In particular, Piwi grape varieties are the result of crossing grape varieties resistant to fungal diseases with traditional varieties.

The main characteristic of Piwi grape varieties is the combination of disease resistance and wine quality. They were created primarily to address the challenges of fungal diseases in grapevines, allowing for reduced pesticide use and more sustainable vineyard management while still producing high-quality wines.

2. Why are Piwi wines created?

piwi wines

Piwi is an acronym derived from the German “pilzwiderstandfähig,” which means “fungus-resistant vines.”

In the face of the issue of fungal catastrophe and the scourge of phylloxera in European vineyards, there arose a need and a desire to find a solution to address the low resistance of European grapevines to fungal diseases and invasive insects.

The original goal was well-defined: to effectively crossbreed certain European wine grape varieties with American grape varieties, attempting to combine the resistance of American varieties to cryptogamic diseases and phylloxera with the organoleptic quality of wines obtained from European varieties.

However, first-generation hybrids, as they were called, did not exhibit a strong inclination for quality winemaking.

In recent decades, research has shifted towards the technique of multiple crossings, which is far more complex and effective. First-generation hybrids have been repeatedly crossed with other varieties of the Vitis genus, allowing the resulting grapevines to have almost their entire DNA traceable to Vitis vinifera, while simultaneously displaying the disease resistance typical of American species.

3. Advantages of resistant varieties – environment and agriculturepiwi wines and agriculture

Selective breeding and targeted selection result in innovative grape varieties that make viticulture more sustainable and able to address future challenges in the vineyard.

But what does it mean for these grape varieties to make viticulture more sustainable? Piwi grape varieties offer advantages for both the environment and agriculture by reducing the use of pesticides. In viticulture, significant quantities of phytosanitary products (fungicides) are typically applied to prevent potential fungal infestations and ensure a successful harvest.

The European statistical institute (EuroStat) has determined that viticulture is the type of cultivation that releases by far the highest amount of phytosanitary products per hectare into the environment.

On the other hand, Piwi vines, due to their high resistance to fungal diseases, allow for a significant reduction in pesticide use, thus protecting the environment. Additionally, fewer passes with machinery in the vineyard are required.

Originally stemming from hybridization experiments, Piwi wines are increasingly appreciated for their unique organoleptic characteristics, contributing to sustainable and quality production in the wine industry. They are also known as “super organic” wines.

The greatest challenge in agriculture today is the need to make cultivations economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable, and Piwi grape varieties appear to offer an interesting solution.

4. Piwi wine olfactory examination

How do Piwi wines present themselves during the olfactory examination?

Opponents argue that these grape varieties are unable to embody and reflect the terroir of origin and cannot match traditional wines in terms of characteristics such as complexity, elegance, and quality.

On the other hand, proponents of Piwi wines claim that during blind tastings, it is extremely difficult to distinguish Piwi wines from traditional ones.

5. Piwi wines in Italy

Piwi wines in Italy are currently grown in Trentino Alto-Adige, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardia, Abruzzo, Emilia Romagna, and Marche.

The most well-known Piwi grape variety in Italy is Solaris, which was developed in 1975 in Germany at the Institute of Enology in Freiburg. Its exceptional resistance to fungal diseases allows for a reduction in chemical treatments and ensures the healthiness and quality of the wine.

Here is a list of all the Piwi grape varieties:

White grape varieties: Bronner, Cabernet Blanc, Charvir, Fleurtai, Helios, Kersus, Johanniter, Muscaris, Palma, Pinot Iskra, Sauvignon Kretos, Sauvignon Rytos, Sauvignon Nepis, Solaris, Soreli, Souvignier Gris, Valnosia.

Black grape varieties: Cabernet Carbon, Cabernet Cortis, Cabernet Eldos, Cabernet Volos, Cabertin, Julius, Merlot Khorus, Merlot Kanthus, Nermantis, Pinotin, Pinot Kors, Pinot Regina, Prior, Regent, Sevar, Termantis, Volturnis.

Other Piwi varieties, which have already been selected and studied, are waiting to be included in the National Register of Wine Varieties.

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