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Food Tech Center helps Idaho wine producers take the heat off their grapes


by Marlene Fritz

At the University of Idaho’s Food Technology Center in Caldwell, where director Drew Dalgetty is in his second year of evaluating wines for Idaho’s commercial grape growers, yet another use has been identified for the facility’s wine-making equipment.

This year, Dalgetty is fermenting grapes that had been treated with a clay particle film—or kaolin—in an effort to reduce sunscald. Sunscald is a challenge faced by grape producers in semi-arid, high-elevation growing regions who deliberately reduce irrigation to enhance fruit quality.


Helping Idaho wine grapes avoid sunscald
Previously, research horticulturist Krista Shellie of the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Parma had observed that Merlot grapes growing in trials at nearby Skyline Vineyards had a greater incidence of heat stress and sunscald when irrigation was reduced by two-thirds between fruit set and color change. She decided to test kaolin, used commercially to decrease sunscald in apples, in her Skyline plots.

Initial trials proved promising. This fall Shellie delivered the grapes to Dalgetty. By mid-winter, when they’re fermented, she’ll ship resulting wines to cooperating flavor chemists and sensory scientists at Oregon State University and Washington State University. They will measure the impacts of kaolin on product quality. The research is funded by the Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research.

Contact Drew Dalgetty at dalgetty@uidaho.edu and Krista Shellie at kshellie@uidaho.edu.

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