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Indigenous grape varieties

Almost all wine drinkers have their favourite wines. As they influence its aroma, the distinctive taste of a wine depends on the grape varieties used. But where did the grape varieties originally come from? What does “indigenous” signify in relation to wine? Find out more in the guide below.
The term “indigenous” means “native” or “long-established”.

What is an indigenous grape variety?

The term “indigenous” means that a variety is native to or long established in a particular region. Indigenous grape varieties are therefore grapes that grow only or mainly where they originated – without being specifically cultivated by humans.
However, sometimes it is not so easy to categorize grape varieties according to whether they are indigenous or not. Many wines have existed for thousands of years, so naturally it is difficult to pin down exactly where a grape variety first appeared. Browse for indigenous grape varieties in the Mondovino wine app.

Indigenous wines – botanical migrants

Some grapes are categorized as indigenous varieties even though they originally came from a region that is not where they are primarily grown today. However, if winegrowing and production are closely associated with this new region, or have become intrinsic to a wine’s identity, it can also be categorized as indigenous.
To better understand the special nature of indigenous wines, perhaps a comparison with human migrants is helpful. Some people are born in one country but move to another one while they are still young. After many years in the other country, they often no longer have any real relationship with their country of birth. They feel they belong more to the country in which they grew up.The situation is similar with a grape variety that originally came from a region different from the one where it is cultivated today. In this sense the wine is then indigenous to its new home.

Examples of indigenous grape varieties

Indigenous grape varieties can be found all over the world, for instance indigenous Swiss wines can be found in the Valais wine region. These include the white wines Humagne blanche, Amigne and Petite Arvine as well as the red wines Cornalin and Humagne rouge, for example.
National varieties are a particular form of indigenous grapes. These are grape varieties that have evolved naturally over a very long period of time. They have adapted so well to their environment that they can usually withstand even extreme conditions such as severe frosts or long periods of drought. National varieties are also often resistant to certain pests.
It is this robustness that prompts vine growers to breed national varieties to ensure a relatively stable source of income even during periods of adverse weather.

Indigenous grape varieties in a nutshell

If a grape variety has been established in a region for a very long time, it is considered to be indigenous – even if it originally came from an entirely different region. A cultural connection to the region where it is grown is always important, however. Only then is a wine considered indigenous.
Curious to find out more? Browse indigenous grape varieties in the Mondovino wine app.