Today’s blog is somewhat of a South African affair. The South African grape industry has a new ringtone, called Joybells and people are quite taken by it.

This past season, Joybells received unanimous praise from top UK retailers, Morrison’s and Marks & Spencers, after technical tasting and exclusives sales in their outlets. Impressive! Even though I had nothing, whatsoever, to do with the development of the variety, the mere fact that it originated in the same country where I was born and bred fills me with pride. And joy, emotionally and physically.

Joybells is a seedless red grape variety, which, some refer to as the red grape version of Sable. Sable is a very popular black seedless grape variety.

So, who did it and how did it happen?

Joybells was bred and developed by Phyllis Burger of ARC-Infruittec-Nietvoorbij based in Stellenbosch and commercialized by the private company Culdevco (Pty) Ltd. Phyllis Burger explains that Joybells came into existence from an open-pollinated Sunred variety and a stroke of luck. Her stroke!

How does it taste? What is the look and feel of Joybells?

Thanks to the excellent acid-sugar balance, the variety has an intricate flavour that really captures its audience. Along with the taste, this naturally large berry has a crunchy firm texture, with a dissolving skin that almost melts in your mouth. All these characteristics enclosed in one grape make for an excellent eating experience.

Why the name Joybells?

Looking at the berries in a bunch it could be hard to tell, however, when comparing it to a traditional grape, it’s clear to see that some berries resemble the shape of a bell.  This characteristic drew attention right from the start. It is said, that during the evaluation phase everyone always remarked on the the bell-like shape of the berries. That, along with the remarkable taste and texture was what inspired the name Joybells.

Joybells up close
Joybells up close

Which countries are currently producing Joybells?

Only South Africa, however, there are processes underway to register Joybells in other countries.

In the meantime, vines are being planted at a joyous speed in South Africa. In 2015, 24 hectares were planted, 57 hectares in 2016 and 217 hectares in 2017. Another 110 hectares are on the cards for 2018. In the past there were some challenges regarding the availability of plant material, however, from this year onwards, there are no limitations on availability.

What does the future hold for Joybells?

Maybe more like what does Joybells hold for the future. It seems to us that between the retailers loving it and the growing numbers of vines being planted, Joybells will definitely be taking the market by storm, whilst spreading joy throughout with its charming shape and satisfying flavours.

Wonderful, so where can we buy Joybells now?

Joybells will be available in selected supermarkets in the UK and hopefully in many more countries soon! Holding thumbs that it will spread promptly.

When is Joybells in season?

Joybells is harvested in January in South Africa, taking storage and transport into consideration the grapes ought to be available in the UK during the third week of February through March.

Thanks to Phyllis Burger, Dr. Leon van Mollendorff and Hein Agenbag for sharing their knowledge with us.


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