Cross-Comparison of Pinot Noir Clones

This week, I was shuffling through a pile of literature gathered from various conferences on Pinot Noir from around the globe from the last five or six years. I came across a booklet from the Mornington Peninsula International Pinot Noir Celebration. In the back was a fantastic gathering of perspectives on Pinot Noir clones from three regions – Australia, New Zealand and North America.

Having written about heritage clones of Pinot Noir in Russian River about six weeks ago, I looked to see if any of the American oldies were listed. None from my trip to Paul Hobbs were included. However, Martini 58, a.k.a. FPMS13/Clone 13 and G8V3, was there along with David Bruce, which also goes by DB Clone.

Figuring out where these clones come from is a bit like researching a family tree before the internet. There’s a fair bit of uncertainty amongst the researchers themselves, so where does that leave the rest of us? Luckily, the chart makes it pretty easy to cross-reference with its column titled “Also Known As”, in which almost every clone other than the Dijon clones show at least one other name. From the US Perspective, the source of Martini 58 is Louis Martini in the USA. From the New Zealand Perspective, the source of Clone 13 is UC Davis, USA. The Australians indicate two origins for their G8V3: UC Davis, USA and Switzerland. Now that we’ve figured that one out, let’s look at the David Bruce Clone. Apparently it was cultivated first by Paul Masson and then by Martin Ray in the US…but way back when, it immigrated from somewhere in the Côte d’Or.

Regardless their paths around the globe, five clones are currently planted in all three regions. All are Dijon clones that hail from Dijon/Morey St. Denis except one. The soloist is called the Pommard Clone, and despite being named after a town in Southern Burgundy, all three regions note UC Davis as its source. Here’s a recap of what winemakers look for in those clones:

Pommard/Clone 5– Celebrated for its “…structure, density, chewy texture and ‘sweeter’ nose.”

114– Listed as “Early ripening; medium purple hue; complex flavors; dark fruit and red fruit; Burgundian characters; good intensity; balanced; fine and abundant tannin structure in the mouth.”

115– Noted for “Early ripening; medium colors; flavors more complex and tannic; dark fruit – cherry, plum, blackberry; intense, fine, rounded tannin structure; full-bodied. Better complexity and aromatics than UC Davis clones.”

This last comment reminded me of a conversation I had several years ago with Ellen Mack of Russian Hill Estate. Ellen told me that the “classic California clones, like Martini and Pommard” provide lighter color, sensuousness and perfume.

Ellen also informed me that the Dijon clones starting with “11” were older clones. Her favorite among them is 115. The Dijon clones starting with higher numbers are newer clones. These clones supply more color, have a highly aromatic and strongly fruit-driven character (hence are less old school Pinot Noir in style) and are the clones that tend to make “Zinots”. These descriptors mesh well with those from the Mornington Peninsula booklet:

667– “…beautiful strong color; elegant bouquet; tannic, quite long; structure for cellaring.”

777– “…strong and intense colors; strong aromas; good balance; round tannins.”

Now that you’re teetering on the edge, plunge into the deep end of clones with this clonal Cross-Comparison Chart.