Facilities - vineyard and winery

The unique research vineyard and winery are the only ones of their kind in the UK, and will allow NIAB to undertake work that will benefit the UK wine industry by developing solutions to priority challenges.

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.

Wine Innovation Centre 

  • Covering an area of 260m2, it includes a fermentation area, temperature-controlled cellar, pressing area and wet chemistry laboratory
  • Fermentation room fitted with 50 state-of-the-art fermentation tanks, designed to a unique research specification with each one containing remote computer control for automatic temperature control
  • A new rainwater capture system has been fitted containing a reverse osmosis filtration system, providing ultrapure water for use in the winery, as well as for laboratory analysis
  • A modern wet chemistry laboratory houses a newly installed ‘SPICA’ analyser, the only one of its kind in the UK
  • The ‘SPICA’ analyser carries out a vast range of fast and accurate chemical analyses, measuring juice and wineparameters and compounds throughout wine production
  • Funded by the East Malling Trust, Kent County Council and Growing Kent & Medway, the Wine Innovation Centre will allow NIAB to carry out research from vines to wine to understand the impact that vineyard interventions have on the characteristics of the wine.

Research vineyard

  • The vineyard has been planted to reflect UK commercial practice and provide an essential tool to test innovative techniques and new vineyard equipment
  • Originally planted with a range of clones of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Bacchus, Divico, and Pinot Blanc on different rootstocks including 3309C, SO4, 5BB and 101.14
  • To meet the latest needs of UK grape growers, it is currently being re-structured as a research only vineyard, and replanted due to the kind donation and support from VineWorks, and is being replanted with Chardonay and Pinot Noir

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.

Grapevine Rhizolab

NIAB boasts the only Rhizolab in the world planted with grapevines for studies into clones, rootstocks, soil and microbes, and their interaction above and below ground. The Rhizolab is an underground laboratory used to assess and measure root growth, allowing scientists to study the development of roots following interventions in the crop planted above. Originally built in the 1960s for use with apple crops, the Rhizolab was refurbished in 2013 with funding from BBSRC. With input and support and VineWorks (trellis system) and from Vinescapes Ltd (vines), three grape varieties were planted above the laboratory on four rootstocks in 2023, offering the opportunity for unique underground study of the rootstock architecture, rhizosphere, microbial activity and rootstock x scion genotype interaction.