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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Monty Waldin

Unnecessary and regressive' is how Herv Jestin, longstanding winemaker at Champagne Duval-Leroy, described current research into genetic modification of vines and wine yeasts. Talking exclusively to Harpers, albeit in a personal capacity, Jestin said that genetic modification is a knee-jerk response to problems whose cause we do not always take time to understand fully'. Jestin, who joined Duval-Leroy in 1982, said that research conducted in Duval-Leroy's cellars in Vertus has convinced me that yeast can be adversely affected if, for example, electric cables running around the winery are not earthed correctly. Yeast, like all living cells, create their own electric charge and this can be affected, or perverted, by poorly earthed wineries, affecting their performance in fermentation. Proper earthing takes a few hours to do, whereas altering the genetic make-up of wine yeast will unnecessarily pervert millions of years of natural evolution.' Duval-Leroy launched its first vegetarian- and vegan-suitable Champagne last year. Its first wine from certified organic grapes, a 1998 Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs, will be released in September. Volume is expected to be around one thousand cases.