Wine lovers beware!

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Dong et al, “Dual domestications and origin of traits in grapevine evolution” Science 379, 892-901, 2023

A study published in the journal Science sets back the domestication of the vine by almost 3,000 years! To achieve this result, the authors genetically sequenced 3,525 vine samples, including 2,503 from Vitis vinifera (the domestic vine) and 1,022 from Vitis sylvestris (the wild vine). Genetic data and statistical analysis have shed light on many aspects of the vine’s history.

The wild vine, Vitis sylvestris, split into 2 lineages in response to climatic fluctuations during the Pleistocene. A first line is developing in the Caucasus region and Western Asia (named Syl-E), while a second line is developing in Central Europe and the Iberian Peninsula (named Syl-W). Surprisingly, two independent but concomitant domestication events took place from the Syl-E lineage, giving rise to the domesticated vine, Vitis vinifera. A first center of domestication emerged in the Caucasus for vines used to make wine. The second center of domestication appears in Western Asia for table grapes. This calls into question the then-accepted view that vines for wine production were domesticated before vines for table grapes.

The domestication of the vine therefore took place in the east of our continent, in the Caucasus and in western Asia. This is estimated to be 11,000 years old, compared with 8,000 years ago. So the domestication of the vine took place very early on, at the same time as the beginnings of agriculture! Grapevines then spread along human migration routes in Europe and North Africa. Various interbreeding events took place between the Syl-E and Syl-W groups, contributing to a diversification of grape types.

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