Evaluation of New Winegrape Varieties for the San Joaquin Valley

Fifty six different red and white wine grape selections are being evaluated at the Kearney Agricultural Center, in Parlier, CA. These varieties were originally selected because they originate from warm-climate Mediterranean regions, and/or were believed to have traits that would be desirable in a warm climate wine region, like the San Joaquin Valley. Most of the selections tested were relatively recently released to the industry from Foundation Plant Services and had not been previously evaluated in California. All vines are on 1103P rootstock, trained to bilateral cordons, and most were spur pruned, leaving 8 to 10 two-bud spurs per meter of cordon. However, beginning in 2013, certain varieties have also been subjected to simulated mechanical pruning. Grapes were harvested according sugar accumulation, with the harvest target for white varieties at 22° Brix, and reds at 25° Brix. A few select varieties were picked at higher or lower Brix depending on a number of factors, including the desired wine style. At harvest, yield components, rot incidence, and basic juice chemistry were determined for all 56 varieties. As was typical in the region for 2015 and similar to 2014, the early ripening varieties were harvested earlier than in previous years. The first harvest occurred on 28 July 2015, and included Erbaluce, Petit Manseng, and Picolit. Fiano, typically the earliest variety harvested, followed soon after on 30 July 2015. Having failed to meet the desired Brix threshold for harvest, hand-pruned Parellada, Vernaccia Nera, and Counoise, and mechanically pruned Counoise, Caladoc, and Corvina Veronese, were harvested at the end of the season in early November. Total yields (inclusive of rot) ranged from 5.53 kg/vine (Carmenere) to 26.75 kg/vine (hand pruned Counoise). For the simulated mechanical pruning selections, yields were generally similar or greater than their hand pruned counterparts, with the exception of Counoise. Mechanical pruning either did not affect or reduced rot incidence for varieties harvested before October. But for the late ripening varieties, the late harvest required, probably due to overcropping in the mechanically pruned treatment, increased rot incidence in Corvina Veronese and Caladoc. Red and white varieties varied widely with respect to harvest date, pH, and titratable acidity. Twelve varieties which performed very poorly in the first two years of the trial were topworked to new selections in 2014 and used to make wine in 2015. From the work done in previous years, the most promising varieties were identified and, combined with the newly grafted varieties, a total of 23 selections were made into wine at Constellation Brand’s experimental winery and the finished wines will be evaluated and presented in the coming year. A selection of varieties that have been consistently poor performers with regards to rot and late ripening have been identified and are good candidates to be grafted over into more-promising selections in the future of this variety trial.