First of all, according to PIWI International, PIWI is a German acronym for Pilzwiderstandsfähige Rebsorten and stands for fungus resistant grape varieties. These were created by crossing European grape varieties and American fungus resistant varietals. Most of them still are known as hybrids or interspecific varietals and were first used in France from 1880 to 1935.
The aim was to combine the good resistance to diseases and phylloxera of the American grape varieties with the high quality of European varietals. Unfortunately these new varietals were not able to survive on their own root. Today there’s a whole new generation of PIWIs, the result of decades of crossings created since the 1950s, some of which are showing real promise.
So, why PIWI has been called as “the wine of the future”? Because these grapes are resistant to the two main diseases: the downy and powdery mildew. This is the reason why every year traditional grape varieties have to be treated chemically 6 – 16 times, depending on weather conditions. Originally these fungus illnesses were not a problem in European viticulture, since they were not native. Every time a wine grower treats his vines, he sprays chemicals on them and this is how theses substances end up in nature.
Currently there are 550 PIWI winegrowers with vineyards in 9 countries in Europe: Belgium, Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria. The environmental benefits of PIWIs are not in doubt. The key question will be: how well do they stack up on the taste front? PIWIs are definitely having a moment…coming soon to a vineyard near you.