Vineyard research project to help Tennessee wine industry

Pellissippi State is starting an all new research project on grape growing.
Published: May. 9, 2022 at 9:07 AM EDT
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BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT) - A new research vineyard in East Tennessee could lead the way to expanding locally produced wines.

Pellissippi State started an all new research project on grape growing that will help the wine industry in Tennessee.

Students planted 132 young grape vines in the ground Friday to give them a hands on experience.

“Students in specific classes, all the students in those classes will get research experience. The students that take microbiology on his campus will be doing disease indexing on the grapes on the leaves, etc.,” said Dr. Chris Milne, Pellissippi State University.

This first vineyard becomes the only research vineyard in the state.

Tennessee’s wet environment leaves grape vines disease prone, but these grapes were a special variety.

“If these grapes pan out to be as disease resistant here as they have been in other areas, it’s been phenomenal for the industry,” added Milne.

The Rocky Top Wine Trail in Sevier County planned to buy the grapes once produced. Right now they have to import about 30% of their grapes from out of state for wine making. They hope this project will help them have more of a full Tennessee flavor.

“These are being planted 50/50 with two varieties. One is a red one is a white, and so they’ll give us a good opportunity to make some standalone wines from the grapes that are produced as well as opportunity for blending,” said Jonathan Ball with Rocky Top Wine Trail. “We could certainly use more. These varieties are new to Tennessee.”

As the students planted vines for the future they not only help expand their own hands on studies, but a statewide industry.

“It opens up further possibilities for us. We work very closely with mountain valley and that group and they’re going to be doing one trials with the grapes from here,” said Milne.

It’ll take about one to two years for the grape vines to mature to produce the fruit.

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