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Divico pitched as the grape to drive UK red wine production

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Lisa Riley

Divico could be the grape to drive UK production of “quality red wine”, according to viticultural scientists in Kent.

Research winery NIAB EMR, which has been trialling the variety at its East Malling vineyard for the past three years, believes the Swiss-developed Divico grape could be the “much sought after game-changer” for red wine production in the UK as it produces “quality red wine and thrives despite the challenges of the UK climate.”

“Red wine accounts for only 5% of the UK’s current production, but we believe Divico now offers strong commercial prospects by producing quality red wines. The yield is great and, crucially, the variety has three key growth attributes which mark it out from all others,” said Dr Julien Lecourt, head of viticulture and wine R&D, NIAB EMR.

Divico’ flowers in early June, which is late enough to avoid frosts and when temperatures are slightly higher allowing optimal pollination, better yield and quality.

In addition, the grape is also naturally resistant to many of the economically-important diseases affecting grape crops – a factor that is key for growing crops in the UK’s warm humid environment which often favours development of fungal diseases.

“The wine quality is outstanding as Divico’s precocity and its natural resistance to fungal diseases allows a long ripening, resulting in an optimal aromatic and phenolic quality,” said Lecourt, adding as a variety, Divico is likely to supersede Pinot Noir - the previous industry standard red variety - as the UK season often doesn’t allow for consistent full maturation of the fruit, which hinders the quality of the wine produced.

“While our UK-produced Pinot Noir wines have improved, they do struggle to compete against our European and New World winemakers in terms of consistency,” he said.

Divico was bred at the Swiss Centre of Excellence for Agricultural Research (Agroscope) in the late 1990s and first released for planting in 2013.

The 2019 harvest will be the first one processed at the recently completed research winery at NIAB EMR, which was funded by East Malling Trust - the charity supporting horticultural research in the UK.

As well as working with UK vineyards, the team at NIAB EMR also collaborates with companies involved in the whole wine making process, with the winery primarily focused on servicing the members of the NIAB EMR viticulture R&D consortium including Bolney Wine Estate, Chapel Down, Gusbourne, Halfpenny Green Vineyard, Hencote, MDCV UK, and Nyetimber.