How A DNA Kit Changed My Relationship To Wine

DNA test results can lead to curiosity about your ethnicity and family history. For Shelby Vittek, her ancestors may explain her love of wine.

We spend a lot of time discussing wine grape pedigrees, but what about our own genealogy as it relates to wine?

I first started to think about this during a journey through Austria’s eastern border regions last year. I’ve always loved Austrian wines, especially precise, minerally Grüner Veltliner and juicy, spicy Blaufränkisch, and I wondered if my genetics made me predisposed to do so.

I’d recently joined the growing number of people—more than 26 million and counting—who have spit into a DNA kit and sent it off for analysis. The results arrived a week before my trip. My ethnicity was estimated to be more than 80% Eastern European, which came as no surprise. I’ve always been told that my ancestors immigrated to the U.S. from Austria, Poland and what was then Czechoslovakia. But my results also led me to details that hadn’t been passed down through the generations.

As we drove from winery to winery through the Weinviertel, Carnuntum, Neusiedlersee and Burgenland regions, I’d pass time on my Ancestry app digging for more clues. I was especially curious about my great-grandfather, who I knew very little about other than he was from Austria.