Origins of the Mission Grape
California owes its earliest winemaking history to Spanish Missionaries who planted the aptly named Mission grape during the 18th century. This varietal made simple, rustic wines that were used mainly for ecclesiastical purposes. It has long-since fallen out of favor and has been replaced by grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay.
The Mission’s illustrious past combined with its contemporary obscurity has always made it a bit of a curiosity. Until recently, no one knew the exact geographic and genetic origins of the grape.
According to an article in Wine Spectator, the mystery has finally been solved. Alejandra Milla Tapia and his team of researchers at the Centro Nacional de Biotecnología in Madrid have determined through DNA analysis that the Mission grape is genetically identical to Listan Prieto.
Listan Prieto is a Spanish grape that is also known as Palomino Negro. It was grown in Castile before being largely wiped out by the phylloxera outbreak of the late 19th century. There are still substantial plantings on the Canary Islands, as this region was too isolated to be affected by phylloxera. Tapia’s outstanding research has shed light on a major part of California’s wine heritage.