Arkansas vineyards have two new grape options

by George Jared ([email protected]) 823 views 

Arkansas’ wine industry has two new wine grape varieties. The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is offering new commercial options that are adapted for growing in Arkansas vineyards.

Indulgence is a white wine grape that produces wines with a muscat flavor, said John Clark, Distinguished Professor of horticulture and fruit breeding for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the Division of Agriculture.

Renee Threlfall, research scientist in the division’s department of food science, said Indulgence produces wine with floral, fruity and herbal aromas.

Dazzle is a pink grape that produces a white Gerwürztraminer-type wine, Clark said. Threlfall said it has a spicy aroma in addition to the floral, fruity and herbal aromas.

Indulgence and Dazzle expand options for commercial production in Arkansas and other areas with similar growing conditions. Threlfall said both grapes can produce single-varietal wines or can be blended with other wines to enhance their flavors or aromas. Clark said the original crosses to produce these grapes were made by the late James N. Moore, who founded the Arkansas fruit breeding program in 1964.

“Many Mid-South, Midwest, eastern U.S. and Arkansas wineries are using French-American hybrids, or wine grapes developed in New York that are not ideal for Arkansas,” Clark said. “Dr. Moore’s aim was to develop good quality grapes with substantial flavor that could grow in Arkansas’ environmental conditions.”

Moore worked with the late Justin Morris, a division food scientist who specialized in viticulture and worked on vineyard management and winemaking for Arkansas. Their partnership lasted many years and continues today in the hands of Clark and Threlfall, who began their careers in Arkansas under Moore’s and Morris’ mentorship.

“These wine grapes are truly heritage projects,” Clark said.

At harvest, Indulgence averages 37 pounds per vine. Its muscat flavor is strong in the juice at crush, Threlfall said, and it was consistent in all years. Juice yield is one gallon for 13 pounds of fruit, and it averages 37 pounds of fruit per vine.

“For wine production, Indulgence needed sugar additions most years and acid additions some years,” Threlfall said. “Ethanol levels of wines were 10-12 percent.”

Dazzle makes about a gallon of juice from 14 pounds of fruit, Threlfall said, and averaged about 22 pounds of fruit per vine.

“Soon, wine enthusiasts can purchase bottles of Indulgence and Dazzle wines, not only to enjoy the unique aromas and flavors, but also for the experience of drinking these wines made from grapes developed in Arkansas,” Threlfall said. “Imagine drinking a wine that was made in Arkansas, with grapes grown in Arkansas, and that the grapes for the wine were bred in Arkansas.”

The average harvesting date for Dazzle is Aug. 15, Clark said. Indulgence ripens about Aug. 14. Both grapes have endured winter temperatures down to 1 degree Fahrenheit without damage to canes or buds, he said.

Powdery mildew was seen on Indulgence in four out of 26 years of observation for disease and in two out of 22 years on Dazzle, Clark said. Downy mildew was not observed in either grape, even in heavy years for the disease. Black rot and anthracnose also were not observed. Fungicides were used in research vineyards and these varieties will need disease control similar to most bunch grapes.

Wine sales worldwide topped $355 billion in 2019, according to Statista. U.S. wine sales accounted for about $48 billion of the total. Wine sales are projected to grow by 21% and will hit $429 billion by 2023.

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