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Soft fruit researchers help develop Orkney wines

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Scientists at the James Hutton Institute are working with Orkney-based winemakers and the Agronomy Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands in Orkney to identify fruit that can be used to make unique wines in the northern islands.

Frequent strong winds, high winter rainfall, a cool growing season and reduced sunshine all present significant challenges for fruit production in Orkney. Based on a field trial programme started in 2002, Dr Peter Martin at the Agronomy Institute has identified several varieties of berries that grow well in Orkney, including some unusual berry species, which have been used by the Orkney Wine Company to create new wines.

Researchers from the James Hutton Institute have investigated the chemical composition of both the fruits and the wines, and this has helped explain the unique characteristics that some of the fruit varieties bring to these wines.

Dr Gordon McDougall, senior research scientist at the James Hutton Institute’s Environmental and Biochemical Sciences group, said: “We analysed the chemical composition of the fruits and the wines, measured antioxidant capacity and began to get a handle on what the novel Orkney-grown berries could lend to the wines in terms of colour, flavour and stability.”

Emile van Schayk, owner and headwinemaker of the Orkney Wine Company commented: “Our Orkney Rosé results from collaboration with the Agronomy Institute and the James Hutton Institute, during which we tested several different fruit varieties and selected three which gave the wine particularly good flavour and colour characteristics.

“Although we could buy some of these berries from North America and Eastern Europe, we’ve found that Orkney-grown fruit gives better colour and more flavour to the wine.”

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