Research - viticulture and oenology

Cover crop growing between vines in the experimental vineyard at NIAB East Malling

In response to a burgeoning grape and wine industry in the UK, NIAB planted a research vineyard in 2015, with early plantings used principally to demonstrate the performance of a range of varieties, and their clones, grafted on different rootstocks and training systems, as well as methods of weed control, and their impact on vine nutrition and grape chemistry.

Current viticulture research includes spur vs cane pruning of Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Bacchus funded by WineGB and supported by The Vintners Company, and Botrytis identification using satellite imagery and machine learning (ML), alongside preventative measures to eliminate Botrytis damage in vineyards.

A major focus of our vineyard research is regenerative viticulture and achieving Net Zero vineyard and winery targets with new, innovative projects commencing in October 2024.

Oenology research includes nitrogen levels in soil, grapes and base wines, cold stabilisation techniques, red winemaking with a range of red grape varieties, manipulating the flavour development of sparkling base wines, winemaking technology, and an investigation into new winery waste for circular vineyards.

Winemaking experiments are currently being undertaken in the Wine Innovation Centre for individual UK wineries and companies alongside laboratory-based projects.

Research Projects

Improving vineyard soil health through groundcover management

NIAB is increasingly aware that poor soil health can give rise to inconsistent yields and juice quality in vine growing, which can lead to costly interventions in the vineyard and winery. Working with Chapel Down and Gusbourne and an industry consortium, earlier this year NIAB successfully secured grant funding from Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme (FIP) to investigate the potential impact of groundcover management practices on soil health, yields, juice quality and emissions. It will also lead to grower guidance on bespoke cover crop mixes to alleviate soil compaction, improve soil nutrition and control nematodes. Guidelines to support transition towards net-zero carbon emissions will be drawn up alongside this.

For more information on viticulture and oenology at NIAB contact
Belinda Kemp