Study and documentation of the local vine varieties in Epirus

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Study and documentation of the local vine varieties in Epirus“Molecular Taxonomy and identification of indigenous vine varieties in Epirus”

Text of Study and documentation of the local vine varieties in Epirus



    Study and documentation of the local vine varieties in Epirus Molecular Taxonomy and identification of indigenous vine varieties in Epirus



    Greece is one of the richest European countries in regard to the diversity of

    indigenous plant species. The countrys geographic position (a cross point of three

    continents, Europe, Asia and Africa) and its vast topographic and geological

    diversity have led to the generation of a big number of different biotopes, which

    harbour a remarkable diversity of plant species (Stavropoulos et. al., 2006). Although

    the Greek domain has been studied systematically for decades, a complete

    knowledge of the Greek flora has not yet been achieved (Stavropoulos et. al., 2006).

    As far as the study of vine varieties is concerned, the available studies, examine the

    identification of these varieties based mainly on ampelographic techniques (Ntavidis,

    1982; Kotinis, 1985), while studies employing molecular markers are very limited

    (Stavrakakis et. al., 1997; Lefort and Roubelakis-Angelakis, 2000). It is a fact that the

    future of Greek wine production is mainly based on the exploitation of indigenous

    vine varieties, which are cultured in specific geographic locations and can lead to the

    production of wines with particular organoleptic characters and discrete local

    character (terroir wines; Fischer et. al., 1999 and references therein). Hence, the

    necessity to gain as much knowledge as possible in regard to genetics of these local

    vine varieties becomes obvious. For Greece, a country with centuries-long tradition

    in viticulture, the production of high quality wines is of great economic importance,

    especially since the introduction in the world market, of new competitors (California,

    Australia, Chile, etc.) next to the traditional wine producing countries such as France,

    Italy, Spain and Portugal.

    In this context, the present study aims to contribute to the molecular

    characterization and the genetic nature and the recording of red and white

    indigenous grape varieties in Epirus. This study is expected to contribut to the

    cloning of specific regions of the genome of several vine varieties and the exact

    determination of its nucleotide sequence. These regions have not yet been examined

    on Greek varieties and it is expected to contribute in the exact discrimination

    amongst different varieties, considering the nature of their information content. (see

    section Systems of molecular taxonomy of varieties of vine). Completion of this

  • study will achieve: firstly the further exploitation of, so far known vine varieties

    cultivated in the area, (Dempina, Vlaxiko, Mpekari), as well as, the recording of

    sporadic varieties, such as a few individual plants, which still survive, but are not

    cultivated extensively. These plants survive nowadays with minimal cultivation care,

    which originates mostly from traditional vine cultivation practices and due to the

    acclimatization of these varieties to the conditions existing in Epirus. These are

    varieties about which we have little knowledge and which have not been studied

    properly. The study of these varieties is possible to increase their value both in

    regard to viticulture view, as well as in respect of their wine quality.

    The vine variety, the soil (Chora according to Theofrastos), the climatic

    conditions and the applied vine cultivation techniques (systems of shaping,

    supporting, trimming of fruition and cultivation practices) constitute the basic factors

    of quality wine production. This rule acquires great importance, when aiming at the

    production of quality wines.

    It is generally accepted that, without the quality of the raw materials (grape),

    quality wine production cannot be achieved, regardless of the current technology

    used in winery.

    In addition, if local wine varieties of DPO (Designation of Origin), PGI

    (Protected Geographical Indication) are used, it is possible to produce local wines

    with great added value and recognition, with their own special character,

    competitive not only domestically, but also in international markets, which is a very

    important matter for the economically weak region of Epirus.

    Despite the wide expansion of some varieties (mostly of French origin and

    secondly Spanish or Italian), which are considered international, or cosmopolitan, we

    are must accept and evaluate the preferences of both vine growers and wine

    producers, as well as of consumers for the use and consumption of traditional

    European vine varieties.

    In contrast to the practice followed over the last years, i.e. the cultivation of

    international varieties and the production of so-called cosmopolitan wines, the trend

    of highlighting old, forgotten, marginalized varieties of the Greek Vineyard rises

    constantly. More and more often, vine growers and wine producers request and

    prefer the use of better clones or types or variations of a cultivated vine variety, or


  • the use of forgotten, old, indigenous varieties. This request demands fully

    documented studies in all levels, i.e. varietal, cultivation, oenological-winemaking, a

    hard and complex task that cannot be dealt with unidimensionally. Experts in

    viticulture, ampelography, plant virology, vine propagation, soil scientists and of

    course oenologists, constitute the basis of this team for the specification of all of the

    components for the rational use of the Greek varieties and the rebirth of the Greek


    Relevant ruling of the Hellenic Ministry of Rural Development and Food in

    year 2012, determines the composition of such a team of experts of all required

    specialties for the study, evaluation and classification of the vine varieties of Greece.


    The district of Epirus occupies the north-west part of the country. The district

    is consisted of the Counties Unions of Arta, Thesprotia, Ioanninon and Prevezas,

    with seat in Ioannina.

    It is the most mountainous district of Greece, with abnormal geomorphology

    and unusual climatic conditions. The main factors contributing to the development

    of these conditions are, its mountainous character, the proximity with sea water

    southwest and the mountain range of Pindos eastward with its high altitude.

    Traditionally, the cultivation of vine is inextricably connected with the lives

    of Epirus residents. Vineyards are met almost throughout Epirus, in every place that

    the microclimate allows cultivation of vines. Exquisite vineyards, with the soil and

    climatic factors contribute synergistically to the quality and quantity of grapes

    produced. Altitude of each region, rainfalls, temperature, humidity and winds

    prevailing are the main reasons that support the existence of indigenous, local vine

    varieties. According to the data provided for the county of Ioannina by El.

    Lampsidis, an expert in viticulture, of the 4th Rural Inspection in 1958, extended

    vineyards exist, in the area of Zitsa, Grammenoxoria, Ano Rou of river Kalamas -

    now called Pogonio, and in the basin of Ioannina. To a smaller extent, vineyards exist

    in the valley of river Aoos, the areas of Konitsa and Mastoroxorion and at Metsobo.

    Agro-pastoralist of Epirus concern themselves with agriculture and stock rising

    cocommitantly. During winter and spring they sown various cereals and pulses,

  • during summer various irrigated plants, while they cultivate vines, walnuts,

    chestnuts and other fruits (Paul Helstead, 1995).

    It seems that wine and hooch taxes are imposed very early in Epirus. Late

    18th century and early 19th, citizens of Epirus pay their taxes for producing the so

    called 'krasonomi'. At the early 19th century its price was 2 parades (currency at

    the time) for every ounce of wine and 4 parades for every ounce of "hooch"

    (Bakalis X. Thanasis, 2003).

    Viticulture was developed even beyond the so called 'Zitsa". Before 1940, at

    the Ano Ravenia of Pogoni, there was a vineyard that produced 350.000 "okades" of

    grape per annum (unit of measurement of the mass at the time, Bakalis X. Thanasis,

    2003). These vineyards were destroyed during the World War 2, both because of the

    burning of many villages in the county of Pogoni during this war, and because of the

    occurrence of diseases in the area, in the mid-20th century. Vineyards are completely

    abandoned because of the immigration of the residents of Epirus to foreign countries.

    Villages are desolated, because the growing old population left behind could not

    cope with the rebirth of destroyed vineyards and the manual labor demanded for

    their cultivation (Bakalhs X. Thanasis, 2003).

    The renowned vineyard of Zitsa had unfortunately the same fate. In the

    following years, after the war, many citizens were led to emigration, a situation

    intensified by the occurrence epidemics striking the vineyards till early 1970

    ( ). A phenomenon affecting striking, without

    doubt, the whole of the Epirotic Vineyard. The cases of vine-growers at the time,

    who had the courage, vision and taste, to defy the difficulties and try to cultivate

    again, are just fe