DNA tests reveal the secrets of fine vines

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CLAIMS BY French wine- makers that their chardonnays and gamays are the result of good breeding have been called into question by new research.

A team led by Carole Meredith, a professor of enology and viticulture at University of California Davis, has discovered with DNA tests that both grapes are hybrids of distinctly dubious origin.

Both the chardonnay and gamay, the quintessential Beaujolais grape, are the offspring of the same parents: on one side, the noble pinot, and on the other, the much-vilified, distinctly vulgar gouais blanc.

Gouais has been so reviled down the ages that several attempts have been made since the Middle Ages to ban it.

Professor Meredith has discovered no fewer than 16 varieties descended from pairings of gouais with pinot. Other examples include aligote and melon.