When I visited him in Gippsland earlier this year, Bill Downie, of William Downie, proudly showed me his 60 vines of gouais blanc, announcing that it is the second largest planting in Australia of gouais. “It would be a shame if it was lost” he said simply.
There are good reasons why. DNA analysis in 1999 has shown the undistinguished gouais blanc to be parent, along with pinot, to more than a dozen grape varieties, including some classics, such as chardonnay and gamay noir. Pinot specifically, because pinot noir, pinot gris and pinot blanc all have the same DNA.
Both pinot and gouais blanc were common in France in the middle ages.
The full complement of 16 varieties with pinot x gouais blanc as parents is:
- aubin vert
- bachet noir
- franc noir de la Haute-Saône
- gamay blanc gloriod
- gamay noir
Source: Bowers J; Boursiquot, JM; This, P; Chu, K; Johansson, H; Meredith, C, 1999. Historical Genetics: the parentage of chardonnay, gamay, and other wine grapes of northeastern France. Science, Vol 285, 1562-1565.