Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution

, Volume 54, Issue 5, pp 1095–1104 | Cite as

Microsatellite analysis of Alpine grape cultivars (Vitis vinifera L.): alleged descendants of Pliny the Elder’s Raetica are genetically related

  • José F. Vouillamoz
  • Anna Schneider
  • M. Stella Grando
Original Paper


According to Pliny the Elder and other Greco-Roman geoponics, Raetica was a famous white grape as well as a white wine produced in Raetia, a Province of the Roman Empire. Does Raetica grape have modern descendants? Etymologically and geographically, the white ‘Rèze’ from Valais (Switzerland) would be the best candidate. Using available microsatellite data, we searched for relatives of ‘Rèze’ in our database containing over 1,700 genotypes of grape cultivars from all over the world. Twelve cultivars showing putative first-degree (parent–offspring or full-siblings) or second-degree (grandparent–grandoffspring, uncle–nephew or half-siblings) relationships with ‘Rèze’ were then analysed at 60 microsatellite markers. Calculation of allele sharing and likelihood ratios between competing relationship categories revealed that four cultivars had parent–offspring relationship with ‘Rèze’: ‘Cascarolo Bianco’ (Piedmont, Italy), ‘Arvine Grande’ (Valais, Switzerland), ‘Groppello di Revò’ and ‘Nosiola’ (Trentino, Italy). Given that some of these are also said to be Raetica descendants, we may well be on the tracks of Pliny the Elder’s Raetica grape. However, there is no evidence about the identity of Raetica. Analysis of ancient DNA of grape pips excavated from archaeological sites of the Roman times might provide key information. Our first attempts were unsuccessful, but analysis of additional samples and optimisation of the method could provide groundbreaking results about the identity of the grapes cultivated in classical antiquity.


Grape cultivar Microsatellite Parentage Likelihood ratios Vitis vinifera 


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This research was partially funded by a consortium of wine producers in Trentino (Italy): Cantina d’Isera, Cantina Rotaliana di Mezzolombardo, Società Agricoltori Vallagarina, Cantina Sociale di Avio and Associazione Vino Santo Trentino. The authors would like to thank Gianni Ciurletti, Ufficio Beni Archeologici, Trento (Italy) and Olivier Mermod, Salgesch (Switzerland) for kindly providing us with some archaeological grape pips samples.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • José F. Vouillamoz
    • 1
    • 3
  • Anna Schneider
    • 2
  • M. Stella Grando
    • 1
  1. 1.Istituto Agrario, Laboratory of Molecular GeneticsSan Michele all’AdigeItaly
  2. 2.CNR, Istituto di Virologia VegetaleUnità ViticolturaTorinoItaly
  3. 3.National Centre of Competence in Research “Plant Survival”University of NeuchâtelNeuchâtelSwitzerland

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