Dr Peter Cousins

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Senior Principal Scientist

Peter  will be speaking in Session 6. Wine quality and innovation: where to next? Click here to see more.


Wine grape plant material innovation needs to accelerate in order to meet producer and consumer needs. Vineyard lifetimes are expected to decrease, and variety specifications and utilization will narrow, paralleling the same trend in orchard production, which increases both the need for new plantings and the opportunity for new plant material. Wine grape yield and production efficiency will increase. Wine product choices will increase. Plant material will both lead and support those improvements. We are past peak innovation in table and raisin grape trellising and training; the transfer of these technologies to wine grapes is both available and foreseen. Wine grape vineyard mechanization innovations have not peaked, and wine grape plant material improvement will support and interact with mechanization trends, such as whole cluster mechanical harvest, berry and cluster sorting, and compositional uniformity. New plant material will include both clones and varieties. New clones will be selected from within elite varieties and reflect genuine genetic and phenotypic diversification rather than merely lineage tracking or differential virus infection. They will be routinely and intensively identified by robust DNA fingerprints. New varieties will arise mostly from crossing and hybridization. Both new clones and varieties will be rapidly validated with viticultural and enological observations conducted in a mechanized vineyard context and using grape and wine chemistry and sensory analysis. Current wine grape diversity is driven by autochthony, tradition, and marketing regionalism. Future wine grape diversity can be consumer preference and satisfaction driven and will improve sustainability as well as wine demand.


Dr Peter Cousins is a grape breeder at E. & J. Gallo Winery, Modesto, California.  The grapevine improvement program he leads focuses on the breeding, introduction, and evaluation of proprietary wine grape varieties and selections with enhanced quality. Before joining E. & J. Gallo Winery, Peter was grape rootstock breeder and geneticist with the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, based at Geneva, New York, for more than 12 years. In that role he conducted grape improvement research and bred and introduced five grape varieties, including rootstocks and genetics research.