At the southern extremity of Latin America, a quiet revolution in viticulture is taking place.
Even as grape-growers are rediscovery varieties thought lost to the world among the vineyards of Chile, and winemakers are reimagining traditional varietals, Chilean researchers have developed an entirely new grape strain.
The deep blue, almost black, “Iniagrape-one” was launched in Santiago on Monday by the Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA) and Chilean biotechnology company, Consorcio Biofrutales.
Antonio Walker, president of Fedefruta – the industry body representing Chilean horticulturalists – said at the launch that the grapes have two important qualities for bringing a return on investment: high yields and early harvesting.
The first harvest of the new strain is set to begin on January 15, 2013 in the Elqui Valley in northern Chile, and February 15 in the Aconcagua Valley.
As such, the first batch of the Iniagrape-one grapes ready for export will coincide with a market window for dark grapes in the Southern Hemisphere.
In fact, the grape was developed with the key markets of the United States and Asia in mind. Its firm skin, medium crispness and post-harvest quality period of up to 60 days are all key factors that will make the grape stand out among competitors.
Industry officials expects the grape to achieve an average Freight on Board (FOB) price of US$22 per 8.2kg carton, with an average grower return of US$11 per carton. Return for growers exporting to the United States is around US$10 per carton, while in Taiwan and the Chinese mainland that price could reach US$29 per carton.
INIA National Director Pedro Bustos highlighted the importance of Chile developing its own grape varieties,as this would reduce reliance on foreign technology and increase options for local growers.
Currently the program is working on two other varieties, the INIA 10NN, a light red grape with few seeds, and the INIA 5, which is similar to a Thompson Seedless but requires less labor.