Viticulture and Oenology at East Malling

Sun shining through grapes on a vine at NIAB's East Malling site, Kent

Climate change has created challenges and opportunities for the UK wine industry. NIAB’s scientific expertise and new facilities are ideally positioned to focus on climate-related vine, grape and wine research, sustainability and achieving Net Zero status in UK vineyards and wineries

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Research vineyard and winery

The UK has over 4,000 ha of land planted with vines, an estimated 74% increase in vine planting in the past five years. To support and guide the burgeoning UK wine industry, a dedicated viticulture and oenology research facility is now critical to its future success to manage cool climate vineyards sustainably without compromising grape, juice or wine quality.

Following discussions with some of the principal UK grape growers and wine producers, a research vineyard was established by NIAB at East Malling in 2015. It was set up for research purposes and provides the UK’s only, randomised and fully replicated R&D vineyard. 

Key features

  • A unique R&D vineyard for scientifically rigorous research
  • Industry funded to ensure that our research is relevant to commercial vineyards
  • Supported by world-leading scientific expertise in plant environmental physiology, soil science, pests and diseases, and wine science
  • A fully automated bespoke R&D wine innovation centre with research winery and laboratory for grapevine, grape, juice and wine analyses
  • Aims to increase yields, improve juice quality and consistency, and reduce costs whilst minimising emissions to land, air and water
  • Focused on the needs of the industry including climate change challenges, sustainability and achieving Net Zero status in the vineyard and winery.

NIAB Grape and Wine R&D Consortium

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New developments

Trials services vineyard

In 2022, NIAB established a new trials vineyard as part of its trial services for horticultural crops. Consisting of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in 24 rows (60 vines per row), it offers the opportunity to undertake agrochemical trials, which require ‘crop destruction’ where new and emerging biological products are assessed. With no grapes being harvested for sale or for juice, it is thought to be the only vineyard of its kind in the UK. During its establishment, a root treatment trial was also instigated in this vineyard.

New winery

Having outgrown the small winery, the consortium and scientists have benefited from recent capital investment from ‘Growing Kent & Medway’, a research, innovation and enterprise cluster which is supported by UKRI’s ‘Strength in Places Fund’. As part of a complex of new research facilities at East Malling, a new Wine Innnovation Centre has been built. Covering an area of 260m2, it includes a fermentation area, temperature-controlled cellar, pressing area and laboratory.

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