One of the most necessary research programs in any state without a long-standing history of grape production (at least winegrape) is to do variety trials.  Even though this is a critical project to undertake, it is also incredibly expensive and long-term.  Add in the clonal aspect (which can substantially increase the number of vine types to test) and it gets to be very daunting.  An ideal variety trial for winegrapes should consist of: multiple locations within a state (or region), multiple years of data (probably close to 10 would be best), the labor to care for and harvest the product, the ability to produce wine from the fruit, and other ancillary items like paying for fertilizer, pesticides, water, electricity, fencing, etc.  It really gets to be astronomical and now many funding agencies don’t like to provide monies for these types of studies because they are “cutting edge” science.  Of course not, but it is critical information for the industry.

Clonal testing is something to see down the line after many varieties have been “weeded out” so to speak, or if another state has done some testing and deemed a few varieties to work better than others then a clonal trial may be relevant.  The combinations are overwhelming to be sure — variety, clone, rootstock, environment, site, management, etc.  All factors in success or failure.  Many new growers take on the task of testing varieties, but that is not ideal for them or the industry.  In Oklahoma, I have seen unfortunate growers tear out vines and replace with others because of poor choices (or “testing” of varieties).  The grower loses money doing this and that is unacceptable for business.

I think the best we can do is do variety testing and hope to narrow down our choices.  From there, go on to similar varieties and find some winners.  Clonal testing is something even more established states have not gotten heavily into yet.  I realize their importance, but then again can we afford it at this stage in our industry development?