History of Wine – Ampelology and Ampelography

History of Wine - Ampelology and Ampelography

The Greek term “ampelos” is translated as “vid” in Spanish. According to Gonzalo del Cerro Calderón, “ampelography consists of the descriptive examination of the vine, while ampelology refers to its cultivation”. The dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy defines “ampelology” as “description of the various types of vines and knowledge of the methods for cultivating them”. This definition does not include the word “ampelography”. According to Alexis Lichine, ampelography has two meanings: “1. Descriptive study, recognition and categorization of vines. 2. Textbook or record that describes the structural properties of vines. In addition to the written material, it is portrayed with meticulous plates or photographs of the leaves of each plant that appears in the book.”

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The encyclopedia “Knowing and Choosing Wine” states that ampelology is the science that studies the vine plant and its varieties, while ampelography is the science that examines the characteristics of the different types of vines, such as the size of the vine, the gender of the flower, the shape of the branches, the texture and the teeth of the leaves, the color of the berries, etc.

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The term “ampelography” was introduced in 1661 by F. J. Sachs. This is an incorrect name, for example, previously “enography” was used before being replaced by “enology”. Similarly, the words “philolography” and “musicography” are not used, since “philology” and “musicology” are used instead. Therefore, it is more appropriate to use the word “ampelology”, rather than distinguishing between “ampelology” and “ampelography”. Today, dictionaries no longer include both words, but only “ampelology”.

In 1940, Pierre Galet, director of the Montpellier Department of Viticulture, published a book entitled Grape Varieties and Rootstock Varieties, which is considered the starting point of modern “ampelology”. This science and art focuses on distinguishing between different types of grapes, due to the disorder caused by the use of different terms for the same grape and the use of the same name for different varieties. Galet’s approach is mainly based on measuring the angles formed by the ribs of the leaves of the vine, so that each type of grape can be identified numerically by measuring the angles.

The system can recognize different grape varieties, but not subvarieties. Therefore, it may be necessary to supplement it or even replace it with DNA tests or other biochemical methods that do not rely solely on the examination of the leaves, which is the main objective of traditional ampelologists such as Galet.

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It is difficult to reach a consensus, since Galet uses a narrow methodology, measuring the angles of the vine’s leaf veins in the name of science, while winegrowers each want their own vineyard as a sign of their identity. In Montalcino, they proudly have their own vineyard, known as “Brunello di Montalcino”.

It seems that the Sangiovese vineyard has been given another name. Perhaps the most advantageous name for the vineyard is “Cariñena”. Cariñena is both a geographical name and a world-renowned winery, considering that it has been translated into other languages: “carignan” in French, “carignano” in Italian and “carignan” in English. Cariñena resolves the discussion of whether what makes a wine significant and what defines it is the place where it comes from or the vineyard from which it is made. Cariñena is both things at the same time.

When examining vines, two scientific fields must be taken into account: botany and ampelology. Botany focuses on the organization of plants according to very precise rules, originally developed by Linnaeus. This makes it possible to distinguish between Vitis vinifera and other types of vines, such as V. rupestris Lot., V. riparia Michx., V. berlandieri Planch. etc.

Knowledge of botany has improved a lot, but not to the point of having a division of matter that focuses on the vine, another on the tomato, and so on. Botany tends to stop at the limit of “cultivars”, which are varieties that have been produced by man. In the case of Vitis vinifera L., up to five thousand different types can be identified. Ampelology is the research and recognition of these cultivars. Examining the vines, taking photographs and observing their distinctive taxonomic characteristics, such as the toothing of the leaves, are activities that can be carried out by both the botanist and the ampelologist. The ampelologist is very interested in the cultivation of Vitis vinifera. The other species are interesting mainly because of their rootstocks. The examination of the different varieties of Vitis vinifera cannot be separated from their cultivation, since these varieties come from agricultural manipulation.

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