What is in this article?:
- California wine industry looking for breakthrough variety
- Reinventing the wheel
- Mealybugs and nitrogen inputs
- SJV wine grape growers and vintners are looking at what the future could hold in terms of new varieties that could be used for blends or could even rival other accepted varietals.
- New wine grape varieties might be better suited to the SJV’s heat and bring higher yield, lower production costs, low rot potential, better color, less vegetative characteristics and easier mechanical harvesting.
- Fewer than 10 wine grape varieties account for 80 percent of the varietal wine grapes grown in the United States.
Fewer than 10 wine grape varieties account for 80 percent of the varietal wine grapes grown in the United States.
Reinventing the wheel
One problem, he said, is that flavor and phenolic development (chemical compounds that affect taste, color and mouth feel of wine) can be out of sync with brix (sugar) levels.
Kaye believes that younger buyers in the “Millennial” category could help boost sales of wines unfamiliar to others who may very well struggle with even pronouncing them properly.
“They are accepting of things that are new and different,” he said. “They may look at the wine menu, open up their smart phones and get information on what they had not seen before. Then, if they like it, they will post that immediately [on the Web].”
Kaye cited Viognier as a variety that had not been in vogue as recently as 10 years ago.
He said the winery and others are looking at a mix of data as they evaluate the promise of varieties, including how canopies form and when grapes ripen.
Kaye urged growers to take part in tests of new varieties. “If you’re planting 10 or 12 acres, consider putting in 30 or 40 vines,” he said. “You can always cut the heads off later,” and graft to a different variety.
Sohan Samran, a Madera County grower, of Cabernet, Sauvignon, Rubireds, French Colombard and White Zinfandel, said he found the presentation interesting but was not ready to experiment just yet.
“It’s good to have open mind,” he said. “But why reinvent the wheel? When the planting contracts are available I’ll plant them.”
Matthew Fidelibus, UC viticulture specialist, opened the discussion on new wine grape varieties. He explained that planting of the vines at Kearney started in 2006.
Fidelibus said fewer than 10 wine grape varieties account for 80 percent of the varietal wine grapes grown in the United States. The challenges for new varieties include difficulty in mass marketing.
“And growers need information to make informed planting decisions,” he said.
Fidelibus said that research has shown a wide range in bud break for the varieties that UC is testing. Yield and harvest dates also differ widely, along with variability in acid levels.
He cited yields for three of the varieties sampled, an estimated 16 tons an acre for the Marselan Noir, 15 tons per acre for the Sagrantino and 12.7 tons per acre for the Biancu Gentile.