September 15, 2020 - The fact that Montenegro is one of the centers of plant diversity in Europe is a known fact, due to the last relict jungle in Europe and its many endemic plants. But it was not widely known that Montenegrin vineyards have genetic characteristics similar to traditional wine regions such as Bordeaux and Burgundy in France or La Rioja in Spain.
So far, the most extensive genomic study in Montenegro focused on the genetic diversity of vines has shown that the Montenegrin vineyards stand side by side with these world-famous wine regions.
A study published in the prestigious journal Nature Scientific Reports by a Montenegrin, Canadian and Spanish multidisciplinary team sampled and genotyped more than 500 vines over 100 years old across Montenegro, determining their genotype and mutual genetic connection.
This study revealed an unexpected diversity of grape genotypes with 51 unknown genotypes discovered for science, presenting new grape varieties. However, the most significant discovery is finding their genetic connection and discovering the Montenegrin vine's pedigree. This study shows that vines have been grown here for centuries and with a specific genetic structure for this vineyard.
Specifically, the Kratošija variety is the central variety that has produced the Montenegrin grape assortment in its crossbreeding with other types. Kratošija represents mother or father for 12 grape varieties, and was the most common combination sampled in old vineyards.
With its diversity, biotypes and historical data from the Budva Constitution from 1427, which describe the cultivation of Kratošija in the Middle Ages, this research shows that Kratošija has been the main variety grown in Montenegro for centuries.
Among the many descendants of this variety is the crown of Montenegrin wine production, Vranac, where Kratošija is the father of this variety and the mother is a disappearing variety, called Duljenga, found at one site only in Crmnica. Also, the basis of table grape varieties is Rozaklija, which gave 14 different types, the vine being from the monastery of St. Vasilije Ostroški, and according to written data, originates from 1672. According to tradition, this lineage was sprouted from seeds, and has been scientifically confirmed on the basis of this story. The "father" of this variety is Velja Pergola, which was found just below the monastery, suggesting the origin from the seeds due to crossing.
This research has vast international significance where Montenegro is placed in the center of diversity and the origin of Kratošija. The famous American Zinfandel and the Italian Primitivo were therefore transferrals from these areas. It is precisely the task of this scientific consortium to show the true origin of Zinfandel by sequencing the entire genome.
This study also reveals Montenegrin winegrowers' work through the centuries and the steps of secondary "domestication" of the vine by crossing it with wild vines. This practice has long since disappeared from Europe, and in this way, many famous grape varieties were created in antiquity, including Cabernet Franc.
This comprehensive study based on genomic technologies creates the potential for the development of indigenous winemaking in Montenegro. It lays the foundations for the development of this branch for the next centuries. A lot of work remains, however. All these varieties were first saved from extinction and are now propagated in the Plantaža nursery.
The next step is their examination and micro vinification to determine which varieties can make top quality wines. Also, this is only the first step in winemaking studies in this area. Work is ongoing on testing local yeasts important for wine fermentation, gastronomy development, steaming of wine, and food that will place wines at a higher level, expand this area of the tourism sector, and serve as a basis for vine tourism that has runs all year round.