‘Triplett blanc’ will be the first public release of wine varieties bred and developed by Fay Triplett. Mr. Triplett was a wine grape grower from Ceres, Calif., who was active in grapevine breeding for about 50 years until his death in 2000 at age 96. His breeding program involved crosses of little known as well as major wine varieties from throughout the world, and varieties from other breeding programs.
Through the years, Triplett cooperated with UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology, UC Cooperative Extension — Stanislaus County, Allied Grape Growers and E&J Gallo Winery for input on vine performance and wine evaluation of his more promising seedling selections. He kept meticulous breeding and vine performance records.
In the mid-1980's it was agreed to transfer 40 of the more promising selections to the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center. This would provide an opportunity to compare and evaluate them in expanded plots in a research setting. It would also enable access for industry observation. The American Vineyard Foundation generously contributed some financial support for the Kearney trials. Triplett continued to provide his input during visits to the trial block. Ultimately, it was Triplett's wish to share any released selections with the wine industry. ‘Triplett blanc’ is being released as a public variety by Foundation Plant Services, where it has undergone indexing for freedom from virus.
‘Triplett blanc’ is a cross between Colombard and Vernaccia Sarda. Vernaccia Sarda was evaluated by A.J. Winkler and M.A. Amerine in the 1930s and 1940s. They described the variety as a vigorous grower and heavy producer with large, long-conical, shouldered, well-filled to compact clusters, maturing in late mid-season. It produced neutral white dry wines of mildly distinct, fruity and full-bodied character in region IV. It was considered to be less well adapted to region V, although some fair table wines were produced due to its moderately well balanced fruit composition.
Colombard is well known for its adaptability to warmer regions, producing good yields of well-balanced fruit composition due to its high acidity. It has excellent versatility for the production of varietal and generic wines and for concentrate, brandy and blending wine.
Vine and fruit characteristics of both Vernaccia Sarda and Colombard can be readily noted in ‘Triplett blanc.’ The vine is very vigorous, with strong, upright shoots. The canopy is not dense, as it is not prone to strong lateral shoot development. Clusters are large (average 1 pound), long-conical, shouldered and well-filled. Berries are yellow-green with grayish bloom, medium size (average 2.3 g) and round. Vine yield over 7 years averaged 21.5 tons per acre, which included 3rd and 4th leaf. At full production, 5th to 9th leaf, the yield averaged 26.8 tons per acre. Vineyard design was 8-foot by 12-foot vine and row spacing, bi-lateral cordon training at 54 inches with a single foliar catch wire and standard spur pruning.
Harvest date averaged Sept. 25 with a fruit composition of 20.3 degrees Brix, 0.87 g/100ml titratable acidity and pH 3.42. The number of clusters showing some decay averaged 6 out of 94 total per vine. This is a measure of those clusters with 4 or more adjoining berries showing decay. Typically, it indicates clusters with some partial decay rather than complete decay. Susceptibility to bunch rot appears to decline as the vines become more mature. Clusters showing decay only averaged two per vine in the last four years.
The release of ‘Triplett blanc’ was prompted by its unusually high productivity with good viticultural characteristics and fruit composition. Winery interest in the variety has focused on a white wine blending base and concentrate. Its ultimate fit into winery use will be determined with time.
There are at least 10 more white- and black-fruited Triplett varieties that are advancing to winemaking status and final evaluation for possible release. Their differing characteristics include earlier ripening, muscat flavor, very high titratable acidity for a warm climate, very low bunch rot potential, and high color and phenolic content. If released, they will also become public varieties.