Optima is a very recent addition to the German wine industry. It is a white grape variety that was invented in 1930 at the Geilweilerhof Institute of Grape Breeding at the Palatinate, Germany.
It is basically a cross of Muller-Thurgau and the variety obtained by crossing Riesling and Silvaner, often termed as ‘Rieslaner’.
The grape received status for varietal protection in the 1970’s. Since then, the grape has become a popular sought after grape in Germany.
Almost 87% of Optima’s production now come from its parent country while a considerable share of some 13% is from Canadian vineyards.
Optima (from Latin ‘the best’), is an early ripening variety. This is due to its parent’s characteristics, both of which are early ripening.
It is a hardy variety, and it was designed to withstand poor soil types without compromising on the yield side.
It was, in fact, cultivated as a kind of ‘insurance’ grape for those farmers in the Rheinhessen region who could or were not in the means of affording expensive grape varieties
Optima have maintained its profitability and are one of the most popular hybrid grape varieties in Germany.
Origins of Optima
Optima was invented in 1930 at the Gielweilerhof Institute of Grape Breeding at Palatinate. Viticulturist Peter Morio invented this variety and the grape got legal protection status in 1970 and 1971.
It was first cultivated in the vineyards of Pfalz that spread to other parts of the country.
Optima was primarily designed to withstand severe weathers, as is the case with a lot of German wine grapes.
The geography of Rheinhessen is not very suitable for vine cultivation, so Optima was made to fill the gap for those farmers who wanted high yielding, affordable varieties with qualities that matched with grapes of known qualities.
Optima is thus a cheap option that produces quality wines. It could also be considered a good starting point for those thinking to enter the wine business, since Optima has always been an ‘insurance’ grape for many.
Today, it is one of the most popular hybrid varieties, although it is yet to make an impact in the European wine market.
One of the best examples of Optima wines is perhaps the Quail’s Gate, made in the Okanagan Valley of Canada.
It has been mischievously given several funny synonyms, but remains a very popular Optima wine.
Optima is also the parent of the Orion grape, that was acquired by crossing Optima with Villard Blanc.
Characteristics of Optima
Optima is a very early ripening variety and ripens earlier than Muller-Thurgau. It buds fairly late and this has made it very popular among farmers in the Mosel region.
As compared to its parent varieties, Optima is very resistant to frost damage, owing to its late budding quality.
It also has a reputation of developing very high sugar levels and has very high must weights, higher than Muller-Thurgau.
Aromatically, it is rich with aromas of peaches and pears, mixed with lime blossom. The grape has lower acid content than its parent grapes, so that makes up for fruity and mild wines.
Biologically, the grape has complete seeds and flowers are hermaphrodite, meaning that its male and female organs are included in a single flower itself, like most members of Vitis Vinifera.
Its biological name is Vitis Vinifera Linne, the last term indicating a possible French influence.
Like a lot of hybrid grape varieties, Optima has its own scientific name, that is also its synonym – known as Geilweilerhof 33-13-113 and also a shorter version Gf. 33-13-113.
These synonyms, however, are not for public purposes since these are its identification numbers in the institute they were first originated.
As of now, according to the vine database, 22 institutes hold Optima seeds for research purposes.
Most of them, recognised by their breeder institute code, are of German origin, while one is Austrian, Brazilian and two are being held at Japanese institutes while a considerable portion also exists in Italy, France and some in Hungary.
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