Viticulture at East Malling

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

Climate change has created some new challenges for the UK fruit industry, but alongside these, new opportunities have emerged, including a climate that lends itself to vine growing.

Partners Research

Research vineyard and winery

The UK area of production has increased by an estimated 70% since 2015 and with many growers new to the industry, and UK climatic conditions rather different to those of the traditional vine and wine producing areas of the world, a research facility is critical to its future success. Applied research is needed to understand how best to manage cool-climate UK vineyards sustainably without compromising yield or juice quality.

Following discussions with some of the principal UK vine and wine producers, a new research vineyard was established by NIAB at East Malling in 2015. It was set up both for research purposes and to demonstrate best practice in vine growing, and provides the UK’s only, randomised and fully replicated R&D vineyard. A small winery was subsequently created at East Malling in 2018, which allows the scientists to directly assess the impact of the research and different growing practices on the final wine product.

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, and pest and pathogen ecology
  • A fully automated bespoke R&D wine innovation centre with research laboratory for vines, grapes, juice and wine analyses
  • Aims to increase yields, improve juice quality and consistency, and reduce costs whilst minimising emissions to land, air and water

NIAB Grape and Wine R&D Consortium Membership

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 chemistry is being 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 Research Winery has been built. Covering an area of 260m2, it includes a fermentation area, temperature controlled cellar, pressing area and laboratory.