Controlling the Environment at Plumpton College

3rd Sep 2014

Plumpton College has just finished commissioning a state-of-the-art system for vine propagation and wine fermentation at the UK Wine Research Centre, the first facility of its type in the United Kingdom. Known as Controlled Environment Cabinets (CECs), these five bespoke installations are at the heart of the Rathfinny Research Winery, which was opened by HRH Duchess of Cornwall earlier this year.

Being able to control the factors that determine how plants grow and wines ferment will enable Plumpton College staff and students to conduct a wide range of front-line research into both viticulture & oenology. In the spring and summer, the CECs will be used to propagate vine cuttings and grow potted vines, while controlling key variables such as light intensity, day length, and diurnal temperature variation. In the autumn and winter, they allow for the successful manipulation of all stages of the wine production process, such as the cold storage of the grapes, the conduction of the alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentations, and the cold stabilisation of wines.

These facilities will be used extensively by students enrolled upon Plumpton College’s Master’s Degree in Viticulture & Oenology programme, which was validated earlier this year by the University of Brighton. Students on this course will spend up to 600 hours carrying out research projects, many of them sponsored by industry through research scholarships. These students will be under the supervision Dr Matteo Marangon, a leading wine researcher, and will provide relevant data for the burgeoning English and Welsh wine industries.

Current research projects include:

  • Evaluation of vineyard frost protection products.
  • Investigation into growth of Bacchus vines through supplementary LED light.
  • Influence of temperature and pH on aromatic thiol release during white winemaking.
  • Use of novel yeast strains and species in production of sparkling wine.

 

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