Good news for wine merchants as researchers join the dots on grapevine symptoms

Wine merchants and customers alike could face lower prices for some varieties in future, as researchers continue to make progress in eliminating grapevine diseases.

Several vineyards in major winegrowing regions have been participating in research conducted by the Basque Institute of Agricultural Research and Development, NEIKER-Tecnalia, and the National Institute of Agricultural Research in Bordeaux.

Together, the organisations looked at symptoms of Black Dead Arm (BDA) and Esca Disease in grapevines in Bordeaux, the Rhine area, the Rioja Alavesa and the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.

In leaves previously thought to be afflicted with BDA, red pigmentation can be seen alongside green tissue; meanwhile, Esca is characterised by reddish colouring around the leaf veins, combined with a yellowish tiger-stripe pattern in the green tissue.

However, the scientists found the BDA symptoms can actually be a precursor to Esca - indicating that the two diseases may in fact be the same affliction.

This could allow a single treatment to be used to prevent grape loss due to both variants of the disease, with current research focusing on a kind of immunisation to be applied to pruned vines, rather than on curing the disease once it has already taken hold.

Any substantial progress could boost grape crops in affected vineyards, allowing more wine to be produced, and potentially lowering the bottle price charged to wine merchants and their customers alike.