Traceability of Sangiovese: latest research in the field of genomics and chemical analysis

Some of the most well-known and important researchers in Italy were at the conference held today at the Teatro Astrusi in Montalcino, sponsored by the Consortium of Brunello: “Traceability of Sangiovese in Montalcino: research and experiments to identify the origin”, of which the most advanced research studies in this amazing journey in the genomics and chemical analysis methods were compared and discussed. The question that we tried to answer is whether it is possible to find perhaps in an aged wine, the origin of the variety and / or varieties. The answer is yes, but the most advanced research has not yet found an absolutely foolproof method for this type of detection. And what are the most effective methods for this type of investigation? Both the anthocyanin profile analysis and DNA tests are not, in fact, infallible.
“The anthocyanin profile analysis of grapes is now an established method”, explained Fulvio Mattivi, researcher at the Edmund Mach Foundation Institute of San Michele, “so much so that for young wines the OIV (Eno 22/2003) has already validated the liquid chromatography method”. And to determine the anthocyanin profile in aged wines? “The method and research which we are working on”, Mattivi continued, “starts with a “tracing” analysis because anthocyanins react with other substances and are therefore “polluted”. However, we arrived at significant statistical correlations with those of anthocyanin pigments also in mono-varietal aged wines, first of all, Brunello di Montalcino. It is still a work in progress, but there will never be a certainty in the comparison of samples obtained from blends. A bit of the fog, however, has lifted”, concluded Mattivi “and this bodes well for the future of our research”.
Concerning genomic analysis, the nucleic acid amplification (PCR) or DNA testing practiced in many of the recent investigations on acts of violence “is an in vitro test that reconstructs the DNA, is widely used and already has legal value”, explained Rita Vignan, researcher at Serge-genomics at the University of Siena, “and is progressively becoming a method that shows results even in cases in which the DNA is extremely compromised, as evidenced by its applications in archeology and paleontology. In this sense, it is possible to also apply it to wine, although it is still an open debate on the actual possibility of extracting DNA from wine, because of the high risk of contamination with other nucleic acids (yeast, bacteria, etc.). In mono-varietal aged wines we also achieved significant results and DNA testing works, while on blends it is virtually impossible to go below the 10% usage of another variety. In short”, concludes Vignan, “the current phase should invite us to work on crossing the various methods, because an infallible scientific method does not exist”.
Stella Grando, researcher at the Edmund Mach Foundation at the Institute of San Michele, said, “the DNA molecule is very difficult to recover in wine. The scientific results of DNA testing on wine are not reproducible and do not lend themselves to quantitative determinations. Evidently, however, there are some interesting developments, especially in the field of genomics and microbiological analysis of DNA of the other components of wine. Of course”, concluded Grando, “it is one thing to work on determining an instrument for control, and another to work on expanding knowledge. The latter seems to me to be the real activity of a researcher”.
Last but not least is the state of the art analysis of the relationship between isotopes of bio-elements (hydrogen, carbon, oxygen) that has been used for decades to verify the authenticity of wine and the origin declared on labels. “Controls”, said Federica Camin, researcher at the Edmund Mach Foundation at the Institute of San Michele, “are based on the comparison of the isotopic values of the sample with those of an official database: every year a representative number of samples of the wine production of each member state shall be officially collected and analyzed. The database annually provides data for isotopic reference to authentic samples, and on this basis defines the legal limits of the isotopic data for the products of each country and each subarea and in the case of a significant number of samples, of each denomination”.
The Consortium of Brunello is a forerunner that is also making a clear and unequivocal request: scientific research is definitely indispensable in order to raise the level of Italian wine excellence. Of course, the economic commitment in similar projects is costly, but necessary if we want our products to represent a sacrosanct guarantee and the hallmark of Made in Italy for consumers around the world.

Traceability of Sangiovese in Montalcino: the Consortium holds a convention

Tracing the Sangiovese contained in each bottle of Brunello in order provide a scientific guarantee of its origin. This is the challenge posed by the Consortium of Brunello, which – for the very first time – gathers in Montalcino the foremost experts in the field to discuss the methods that can currently be used to scientifically trace a wine as particular as Brunello. An ambitious objective, a further sign of excellence and attention towards the market of great Italian oenology.

The appointment is for Friday, 24th May, starting from 9.00 am at the Teatro degli Astrusi in Montalcino, with the convention “Traceability of Sangiovese in Montalcino: Research and Experimentation for Origin Identification”, where winemakers, specialists and oenologists will meet to discuss the results of the research performed by teams of experts who have worked using the anthocyanin profile method, the stable isotope method and DNA testing.

The convention will be live streamed on the homepage of the Consortium site and on the blog. Furthermore, to participate in the discussion, you can send in your questions to the Consortium’s email address Requests may be submitted from 9.00 am on Monday, 20th May to 11.30 am on Friday, 24th May.

The Chairman of Federdoc Riccardo Ricci Curbastro will partake in the event. His presence underscores the fact that traceability of grapes is a topic of utmost interest throughout the world of oenology, and that Montalcino has consolidated its position as example-setter in the scenario of Italian DOCG wines.

As pointed out by Fabrizio Bindocci, Chairman of the Consortium, “the fame and prestige gained by Brunello have made us strive to be also at the forefront of traceability on an international level. We are selling a dream, so we need to certify it, and we want to be the first to do so scientifically. We will propose our method, but are open to other methods. Yet, we wish to stress the fact that all are important provided they can be scientifically demonstrated”.

Convention Programme:

After the greetings and opening remarks of Mr Fabrizio Bindocci, Chairman of the Consortium of Brunello, and Mr Silvio Franceschelli, Mayor of Montalcino, the convention will focus on the following topics:

-      “Controls and Consumer Protection”

Speaker: Emilio Gatto, General Director of Prevention and Contrast of Frauds in the Agri-food Sector, ICQRF Department (Central Inspectorate for the Protection of Quality and the Suppression of Fraud in Agri-food Products), Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies

-      “Controls and Protection of Winemakers and their Consortia”

Speaker: Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, Chairman of Federdoc

-      “Traceability of Sangiovese for the Production of Brunello di Montalcino Using the Anthocyanin Profile Method”

Speaker: Fulvio Mattivi, Edmund Mach Foundation, Institute of San Michele all’Adige

-      “Genetic Fingerprinting of Grape Varieties in Wine by DNA Testing”

Speaker: Rita Vignani, Serge Genomics, Department of Life Sciences, University of Siena

-      “Traceability of Sangiovese in Brunello di Montalcino Wine by DNA Testing”

Speaker: Stella Grando, Edmund Mach Foundation, Institute of San Michele all’Adige

-      “Traceability of the Origin of Brunello di Montalcino Wine with the Stable Isotope Method”

Speaker: Federica Camin, Edmund Mach Foundation, Institute of San Michele all’Adige

Conclusive remarks by Gianni Salvadori, Councillor for Agriculture, Tuscany Regional Government.