Grape breeding programme bears fruit for Mack and Belco.

The competitive world of grape breeding has been firmly in focus for Mack over recent years. There remain supply windows in the calendar which would benefit enormously from a better eating grape variety in abundant supply. The picture is complicated, with weather and technical issues all playing their parts, but the ARRA breeding programme is proving itself to be a great partner for growers around the world, producing varieties of all colours to fill those supply window opportunities.Mack Multiples has been working with growers Sherif and Mohsen El‐Beltagy, owners of leading Egyptian grape grower, Belco. The Egyptian season is just beginning now, with the now traditional white variety Early Sweet coming into the UK. However, consumers have become accustomed to the sweeter, crispier, crunchier white varieties like Thompson and whilst Early Sweet is a delicious early grape, the customer preference is for something sweeter. Fifteen years of the ARRA breeding project in California have resulted in a massive innovation for grape growers with the commercial release of the ARRA 11 variety, grown by Belco for the first time in commercial quantities, delivered into Mack.ARRA 11 has a high sugar profile, approaching that of Thompson and at levels previously unseen in early grape varieties. It’s eating as a crispier, crunchier‐textured grape too, with a typically larger berry size.


Sherif and Mohsen El‐Beltagy are among the world’s most well‐known characters in grape production. Growing in Egypt for some 30 years, Belco is not only the largest grower with some 400 acres of Early Sweet, they’re also the earliest to load product to the UK thanks to careful vine management, good agronomy skills and a strong focus on their UK market.Belco were introduced to the ARRA varieties some time ago and participated in numerous trials. These provided useful data to the ARRA breeding programme as a European growing environment with very different characteristics to the ARRA Californian terrain. Having taken the plunge and planted commercial volumes of ARRA 11 along with four other ARRA roll‐out varieties (red, white and black colours). 


Belco now look set to increase their plantings given the acclaim that’s met this particular harvest.The ARRA breeding programme is the work of the Giumarra family at Giumarra Vineyards Corporation in Bakersfield, California. Working in conjunction with Shachar Karniel, Salvador Giumarra and his nephew John Giumarra III have been painstakingly growing and documenting trials in search of the very best new innovations. Their ARRA 15 variety has been marketed in the UK by Mack for two seasons now, with other exciting new varieties expected this year, from the USA and elsewhere – including Egypt, grown by Belco.Speaking of this exciting arrival at Mack Multiples, Commercial Director Dan Crooks said: “We’ve had a long relationship with Belco as a grower for Mack, with their fruit consistently offering the best quality from Egypt every season. Their enthusiasm for innovation and readiness to invest in new varieties is paying dividends to help keep both Belco and Mack at the forefront of grape breeding developments.”


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