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Hybrids

hybride (F)
ibrido (I)
hybrid (GB)
híbrido (PO)
híbrido (ES)
hybride (N)

Means "of two different origins" or "obtained by blending" or colloquially (sometimes pejoratively) also mixed, bastard or blendling. In scientific usage it means a living creature (plant, animal) that has been created by crossing parents of different breeding lines (genus = genus or species = species). Crosses that have spontaneously developed in nature without human intervention are called natural hybrids, especially in the case of plants. In viticulture, hybrids are only understood to be the results of crossing between different species or genera. Strictly speaking, however, even crosses of the same species are already hybrids (intraspecific = within the species). However, this is usually not interpreted in this way, but as hybrids only interspecific or intergeneric crossings are understood

With plants, this looks far less spectacular than with animals and is not immediately apparent even to experts. It is completely different with hybrids in the animal world, the most famous examples being mule (donkey mare x horse stallion), mule (horse mare x donkey stallion) and lion (male lion x female tiger).

Hybriden Tiere - Liger (Löwe x Tiger) / Zesel (Zebra x Esel)

american hybrids

Hybrids in the viticultural sense are crosses between two different species. When first crossed, they are called primary hybrids. However, as a rule, in new breeds, hybrids with American genes (e.g. Vitis cinerea, Vitis labrusca, Vitis riparia etc.) with the desired characteristics are already crossed with a European cultivar (Vitis vinifera). The results are then secondary hybrids. Most of the partly phylloxera- and at the same time fungus-resistant varieties were developed towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Many of them have the obtrusive Foxton, which disqualifies them for wine production, at least in Europe. These varieties created in the USA are called American hybrids, although they also contain European genes. These are for example Agawam, Albania, Alden, America, Blanc Du Bois, Campbell Early, Cayuga White, Clinton, Concord, Elvira, Delaware, Dutchess, Herbemont, Hopkins, Horizon, Iona, Isabella, Jacquez, Melody, Missouri Riesling, Munson, Niagara, Norton, Noah, Orlando Seedless, Othello, Rubired, Taylor, Traminette and Venus.

amerikanische Hybriden - Alden, Blanc du Bois, Clinton, Concord, Noah

french hybrids

The partly complex cross-breeding products of European breeders of the late 19th and early 20th century are called French hybrids, because especially in France but also in Spain, Hungary and Russia attempts were made to defuse the problem of phylloxera-induced vine death by breeding phylloxera-resistant hybrid varieties for viticulture. Of course, American species had to be used in the process. Valuable help was provided by, among others, the US botanist Thomas Volney Munson (1843-1913) with regard to rootstocks, and the breeder Hermann Jaeger (1844-1895), who had immigrated to Missouri from Switzerland, with regard to American hybrids, which were then used for crossing with European varieties.

Complex crosses of hybrid varieties with European vines or other hybrid varieties (secondary hybrids, multi-hybrids) are Aurore, Baco Blanc, Baco Noir, Bellandais, Cascade, Chambourcin, Chancellor, Chardonel, Chelois, Colobel, Couderc Noir, De Chaunac, Etoile I, Etoile II, Flot Rouge, Frontenac, Garonnet, Gloire de Seibel, Léon Millot, Lucie Kuhlmann, Maréchal Foch, Maréchal Joffre, Marquis, Neron, Oberlin Noir, Pinard, Plantet, President, Ravat Blanc, Ravat Noir, Rayon d'Or, Roi des Noirs, Rosette, Roucaneuf, Rougeon, Salvador Noire, Siegfriedrebe, Triomphe d'Alsace, Varousset, Verdelet, Vignoles, Vidal Blanc, Villard Noir and Vivarais

französische Hybriden - Baco Noir, Chardonel, Márechal Foch, Roi des Noirs, Vidal Blanc

When phylloxera was recognised as the cause of vineyard death, attempts were made from the 1880s onwards to breed phylloxera-resistant grape varieties with good wine quality through large-scale crossbreeding programmes. However, the more Vitis vinifera these hybrids had, the better the wine quality, but all these hybrids with crosses of Vitis vinifera did not show sufficient phylloxera resistance. In contrast, the phylloxera-resistant hybrids with low or no Vitis vinifera content were often inedible (Foxton) and unusable for winemaking. Early breeding objectives were also resistance to the harmful fungi of true and false mildew and other vine enemies also introduced from America with phylloxera, as well as resistance to frost and drought and other quality improvements.

Hybrid breeder

In breeding the first and second generation of hybrids, the French breeders François Baco (1865-1947), Albert Seibel (1844-1936), Eugéne Kuhlmann (1858-1932), Jean François Ravat (+1940), Bertille Seyve (1864-1939), Jean-Louis Vidal (1880-1976) and Victor Villard were particularly active. The French hybrids were used as partners for further hybridizations. The US wine-growing pioneer Philip Wagner (1904-1996) introduced many of them to America from his winery in Maryland in the 1940s and was largely responsible for their spread along the entire East Coast. The Wisconsin-born vine grower Elmer Swenson (1913-2004) also used French hybrids for his frost-hardy new varieties. Pure Vitis vinifera varieties were relatively slow to establish themselves. One pioneer in this respect at his Finger Lakes estate was Dr. Konstantin Frank (1897-1985), who worked at Cornell University in New York State.

In the new breeding of fungus-resistant multihybrids, many of these varieties (especially from Seibel and Seyve-Villard) are still used today as starting material for crossbreeding. The point at which these crosses are no longer considered interspecific because the proportion of foreign genes is "low" is an important issue with regard to the approval of wines with indication of origin. However, after countless attempts, the fight against phylloxera was ultimately won not by crossbreeding but by grafting, i.e. grafting European scions onto phylloxera-resistant American rootstocks. Since phylloxera only penetrated slowly, did not rage everywhere with the same intensity and some hybrid varieties at least produced drinkable wines, many winegrowers understandably ignored the early campaigns for grafting in the first third of the 20th century for reasons of cost.

Prohibition of hybrids

However, since the high quality noble varieties of the European grapevine Vitis vinifera could only survive as more costly grafted vines, strict laws against the hybrids were enacted in Germany and Austria-Hungary during this period. According to the state of knowledge at the time, the discussions were very emotional and, from today's point of view, were conducted with absurd arguments. In the book "Die Direktträger" by Dr. Fritz Zweigelt (1888-1964), published in 1929, the following is written about it: The specific toxic effects are tendency to hallucinations, anger excesses in men, hysteria in women, mental and physical degeneration phenomena in children. People who regularly drink Noah's wine get a pale, pale complexion, tremble all over their body and waste away. Farmers with grafted vineyards, on the other hand, are healthy, hardworking and have numerous children. In France, the direct carriers contribute to the filling of the madhouses.

This put pressure on the winegrowers to grub up their American vines and plant grafted vines instead. In many vineyards, however, these low-maintenance, high-yielding varieties survived because they were fungus and phylloxera resistant. They were often used as table grapes as well as for wine jelly, jam and vinegar, but in some cases they were also used to make wine. Many winegrowers therefore refused for a long time to grub up their American vines, so a gradual ban was enforced. In the Austrian Burgenland, for example, this affected the Noah grape variety in i1926. In 1929, such wines or blending with them was prohibited and in 1936 a general ban on planting was passed. Only the production of pomace wine for own use was allowed. Only in 1991 decriminalisation took place. According to the EU regulation, new planting is prohibited, but there are still periods of time for existing vineyards. Examples are the wines Americano (Switzerland), Fragola (Italy) and Uhudler (Austria) with three of the permitted varieties in the picture.

Uhudlersorten - Elvira, Delaware und Concord

EU regulation concerning hybrids

According to the EU regulation, no wines with indication of origin may be produced from varieties of interspecific crossings. On the other hand, however, each member state can decide for itself, subject to restrictions, which varieties it wishes to use for this purpose or which it defines as quality wine grape varieties. Strictly speaking, all crossbreeding with American or Asian vines would be excluded. However, this has caused some problems for new varieties in recent years, because the term PIWI (fungus-resistant) is intended to achieve the highest possible resistance to fungi such as botrytis and both types of mildew, other pests or environmental conditions such as frost, as an important breeding goal. However, this requires Asian/American species, as many of the Vitis vinifera varieties do not usually have sufficient resistance.

There was a dispute between Germany and the EU over the Regent grape variety. The question was whether the variety should be considered a hybrid or not. Due to its American Vitis labrusca genes, it has a high proportion of the anthocyanin malvidin 3,5-diglucoside (200 to 300 mg/l). This substance, often referred to as "hybrid colouring", does not affect health or taste, but its presence is evidence of American genes and, on the recommendation of the INAO, it is fixed at a maximum of 15 mg/l in a quality wine. However, the name "hybrid dye" or "direct carrier dye" is misleading because even non-crossed and/or grafted Labrusca vines contain the dye.

Quality study

The ban on interspecific cross-breeding for wines with indication of origin (quality wines, local wines) has always been justified by the EU mainly on the grounds of poor wine quality. In order to provide an objective basis for decision-making in this regard, a study was carried out in 2003 by external contractors from Germany, France and Hungary on behalf of the European Commission. The research work and scientific data were collected at the INRA and in Geisenheim. The study was intended to provide answers to the following three questions: 1) Are there differences in quality between wines made from Vitis Vinifera varieties and wines made from interspecific varieties? 2) Is it possible to reduce the use of plant protection products in viticulture by using interspecific varieties? 3) What would be the economic effects of using interspecific vine varieties?

For the study, 18 interspecific grape varieties or wines made from them were included. The varieties Baco Blanc, Baco Noir, Bianca, Chardonel, Couderc Noir, Medina (1), Seyval Blanc, Traminette, Vidal Blanc, Villard Blanc, Villard Noir and Zala Gyöngye were divided into the three groups "Old interspecific varieties", "Central European interspecific varieties" and "New mildew resistant interspecific varieties developed outside EU". The four German new breeds Johanniter, Merzling, Regent and Rondo also contain a small amount of foreign American and Asian genes, but were grouped as a fourth group as reference varieties with "Fungus tolerant Vitis-vinifera varieties". This is due to back-crossing of the first results with the Vitis-vinifera varieties involved. The variety Regent was mentioned as "not considered as interspecific" and was considered to belong to the species Vitis vinifera, although it also has foreign genes.

With regard to the quality of wines, the study showed that both poor and good quality is achievable, provided that the interspecific grape varieties are cultivated accordingly with regard to their cultivation practices and planted on appropriate areas. With regard to the evaluation of the environmental impact, the results were very positive. The use of pesticides would be considerably reduced if interspecific varieties were used. They are considered to be particularly suitable for organic viticulture. As regards the impact on market balance, the study estimates that increased use of interspecific varieties would cause an increase in total EU production of around 1.8% over the next ten years, with negligible economic impact.

In conclusion, the authors of the study suggest that the current ban on the use of interspecific varieties should be maintained in order to provide an incentive for further research that would produce new and better interspecific varieties. However, the study was received differently in the different member states and clearly shows the problems within the European Union of establishing uniform rules accepted by all for 27 countries and more. Denmark, England, the Netherlands and Sweden are in favour of lifting the ban. Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, on the other hand, are in favour of maintaining it. The countries Germany, France, Luxembourg and Austria, on the other hand, welcome the study and the objective in principle, but see the research work as only just beginning. See also under vine systematics and a list of keywords relevant to vine varieties under vine.

Animals: From Алексей Шилин - own work, public domain, link
Grape varieties: Ursula Brühl, Doris Schneider, Julius Kühn Institute (JKI)

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