Massal selection: a reasoned approach for Maison Gabriel Meffre

What is massal selection?

The idea is to take a bud from a vine stock, which has the characteristics sought by the winegrower (such as grape quality, disease resistance and climate adaptation), and graft it so it can grow. In this way, the parent stock is extended with no genetic modification.

This method has been used for millennia and was the only method used by winegrowers until the appearance of clonal selection in the 1970s.

“We have always paid particular attention to the selection of our varieties, by observing interesting vine stocks in terms of their empirical criteria related to vegetation and harvesting,” says Nicolas Spéranza, Vineyard Manager.

How about clonal selection?

In short, clonal selection is massal selection taken to the extreme. The idea here is also to select a vine stock and reproduce this “individual” in order to obtain clones. These clones are then referenced in a catalogue and sold commercially. “For example, Syrah n°174 can be found in Australia, California and Languedoc, even though it is derived from the same parent plant,” explains Nicolas

This technique was developed in order to gain more control over variables related to agronomy, oenology and health.

Planting from the point of view of biodiversity

Clonal selection has greatly helped French vineyards limit certain pests such as phylloxera and has demonstrated its effectiveness in terms of plant health. It is also more accessible as it costs 60% less than massal selection. However, “it leads to homogenisation and, therefore, reduces the genetic diversity of vines,” adds Nicolas.

Whether it is used to replant a plot or replace a dead vine, massal selection enables us to preserve and sustain the authenticity of our viticultural heritage. “Preserving biodiversity and avoiding making production uniform” is at the core of this choice. This method is totally in phase with our CSR approach, which is focussed on respect for the environment.

At Domaine de Longue Toque in Gigondas, we have practised private selection of vine stock considered to be the most interesting for nearly a decade. The small plots of Syrah and old Grenache vines at the Dentelles de Montmirail and “Les Trois Yeux” sector have fantastic potential and are very well suited to massal selection.

We do not see these selection methods as contradictory. Each responds to different needs and both have demonstrated their suitability for different types of vineyards. Our practices are driven by a dual concern: preservation of the environment and the quality of our wines. This forms the basis for our work in the vineyards!

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