Definition - What does Genotype mean?

In the context of viticulture and grapevine anatomy, a genotype is the complete genetic identity of a wine vine as revealed through genome sequencing. The genotype of the many different members of the wine grape vine family lets viticulturists understand how the characteristics of wine grape varietals have evolved throughout history and how they are affected by growing conditions and variables in different wine growing regions.

WineFrog explains Genotype

Genotypes are a history of all of the knowledge about a wine vine, even characteristics that can’t be seen or that aren’t expressed in a wine vine. Genotypes are responsible for the different characteristics and traits of wine grape varietals in the wine grape families. Wine vines all appear very similar with their long, twisty, winding, flaky vine and vibrant green leaves, and often to the naked eye, we only perceive differences in grape color and size, but vines from different families all have a separate and specific genetic make-up.

Wine vines include: Vitis Vinifera, Vitis Riparia, Vitis Aestivalis, Vitis Labrusca, Vitis Rotundifolia and Vitis Rupestris, to name a few, and the genetic make-up of each varietal is specific to the varietal species, and can only be determined by testing. Genetic make-up also plays a vital role in how well a wine vine will grow in a specific soil, climate or wine growing region.

When viticulturists study genotypes they learn about the phenolic compounds in the grape. The phenolic compounds affect the characteristics in the seeds, the pulp and the skins of wine grapes, which affect the characteristics that will be expressed in the wine. This knowledge is useful for viticulturists when developing hybrid vines for specific varietals in specific growing regions, as they can select the individual characteristics they prefer from the grape that ultimately is transferred over into the wine.

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