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Science May Protect Wine From Climate Change

(CN) - Wine lovers rejoice: While there will be many casualties from global climate change, geneticists are making sure that quality wine isn't one of them.

Thanks to a new sequencing technology, a team of scientists have created a high-quality draft genome sequence of cabernet sauvignon, the world's most popular red wine variety.

In a study published Monday in the journal Nature Methods, the team details how they were able to develop the new genome assembly, which allows researchers to construct large portions of an organism's DNA.

While the technology can be applied to other organisms, it also enabled the scientists to resolve issues with past wine genome sequencing efforts.

"For grapevine genomics, this new technology solves a problem that has limited the development of genomic resources for wine grape varieties," said Dario Cantu, a plant geneticist from UC Davis. "It's like finally being able to uncork a wine bottle that we have wanted to drink for a long time."

The study used an open-source genome assemble process called FALCON-unzip, a technology that allowed the team to expand on the first genome sequence of the common grapevine completed in 2007. Since this initial genome sequence was based on a grapevine variety that was generated to streamline the assembly process, it lacks many of the genomic details that economically important wine varieties possess, Cantu said.

"The new process provides rapid access to genetic information that cabernet sauvignon has inherited from both its parents, enabling us to identify genetic markers to use in breeding new vines with improved traits," he said.

Cantu added that the new sequencing technology will help his team to conduct comparative studies between cabernet sauvignon and other economically and historically significant wine grape varieties.

"This will help us understand what makes cabernet sauvignon cabernet sauvignon," he said.

The findings are especially important for areas of the world that produce and rely upon growing grapes, which are already experiencing the effects of global warming. This includes California, where the value of grape crops varies widely and is largely based on local climate.

"The new genomic information that will be generated with this new genomics approach will accelerate the development of new disease-resistant wine grape varieties that produce high-quality, flavorful grapes and are better suited to environmental changes," Cantu said.

As climate change continues to increase, so will its impact on wineries.

"In a worsening climate, drought and heat stress will be particularly relevant for high-quality viticultural areas such as Napa and Sonoma," Cantu said.

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