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AMPELOGRAPY is a specialization in the field of botany that studies the identification and classification of grapevines. It developed as a scientific study during the Renaissance period (1300-1600 AD), when more research began towards growing grapes for wine.

While vinegrowers and wine drinkers and merchants have tried to single out the best grapes since wine was discovered, the nature of vines to evolve and mutate have made that prey difficult to capture.

Ampelographers use the size, shape and structure of vine parts, primarily the leaves and shoots, but also flowers, berries, pips and clusters, for this discipline. A relatively modern advancement is the use of DNA "fingerprinting", which is proving to eliminate much of the guess work and speculation in identifying and tracing the lineage of grapevines.

Pierre Galet, Chairman of the Department of Viticulture at the University of Montpellier, assembled the criteria used and literally wrote the book Practical Ampelography (now out of print) in the 1940s. It contains descriptions of over 9,600 distinct types of grape vines with hundreds of illustrations. Dictionnaire Encyclopédique des Cépages (Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Wine Grapes) is an updated version, edited by Pierre Roller.

RELATED LINKS: Ampelography (The Wine News) by Jeff Cox and Gina Gigli • Dr. Sherlock Smart Unravels a Grape Mystery (Jancis Robinson)

Page created August 18, 2013; updated October 6, 2014
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