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Divine Flavor earned its name with focus on flavor

By
Tad Thompson

“I’m very glad about the coming season,” Carlos Bon Jr., vice president of sales for Divine Flavor, said of the Mexican grape deal. “We’ll have great quality and great-flavored grapes.”

Sonoran production is expected to run late this year, but Bon said his firm won’t ship before the time is right. “We’re not named ‘Divine Early’.  We are ‘Divine Flavor,’ and we are very excited about our strong investment in new varieties.”

This year, Mexico’s growers of older varieties like Perlettes, Flames and Sugraones are expected to be down in production. But the company isn’t seeing that on premium varieties like Sweet Celebration, Sweet Globe, Timpson, Jack’s Salute and Autumn Crisp.

Divine Flavor expected significant increases in such premium production in 2021, versus young vines’ yields just a year ago. That said, conditions haven’t been perfect in 2021, yet Bon’s company may still see a 30 percent volume increase for the flavorful new varieties.

“So far, looking at the stages of the vineyard, we’re closer to 2020 timing,” he said. “It’s a little discouraging to be late. We’ve lost sales weeks.” 

Bon explained that 2020 was late because of cool April weather, which influenced the late stages of fruit maturity.  “I hope this April is warmer. We know for a fact that this crop won’t be early. I hope it’s not practically a June deal.”

Bon expects there will be some shipping from Sonora in the second and third week of May, but not strong volume until the last days of May or the first week of June.

This is Divine Flavor’s first “real year” of shipping table grapes from Jalisco, according to Bon. The company’s very first volume from a southern expansion of its Sonoran grape industry came last year. Now the vines are maturing toward substantial commercial volumes.

Bon expects his Jalisco ranch to produce 2.8 million boxes on 2,500 acres by 2024.  The Jalisco ranch is named Campo Don Mario in honor of the late Mario Aguirre, who is the father of Alan Aguirre Ibarra, the director general of Grupo Alta, the agricultural enterprise that owns Divine Flavor.  Mario Aguirre died when Alan was young.

Campo Don Mario primarily produces green seedless specialty grape varieties, including Cotton Candy and Jelly Berries.  The vineyard also produces “candy versions of red seedless. They were planted originally to be organic, but we found it impossible to grow organics in that area. We’re testing techniques to fulfill our dream of being organic in Jalisco,” Bon said.

This season, Divine Flavor’s Jalisco production “is pretty much committed to our partners who have been behind our production in Jalisco since the beginning of the project — not the ones who wanted to be our pals because it rained in Chile in December and January.”  Divine Flavor’s loyal trade partners “believe that, regardless of the weather, Jalisco is the best option. They understand that Jalisco is closer, fresher and not fumigated — and the varieties grown there are the best ones in the world.”

Michael DuPuis, Divine Flavor’s public relations coordinator, said another strength of Don Mario is that it just became the firm’s latest ranch to become Fair Trade Certified.

Divine Flavor operates sophisticated vineyards and Viva Organica vegetable farms in Sinaloa, Sonora and Baja Norte. DuPuis said the Jalisco farm was designed based on “everything we learned” in the other operations. “We doubled it up and made Don Mario even better.” This includes the social and housing worker facilities.

“We took the best concepts from all the company and put them in this,” he said

Don Mario’s grape harvest began the week of March 15. The Cotton Candy flavor and ripeness were ready for market, “which is the whole point” of producing flavorful fruit, Bon said.  As a result, “We’re going strong.”

Bon said Divine Flavor’s new vineyard near Ensenada, Baja Norte, is under way, with 250 acres initially producing a half-million boxes this year.

Photo: Alvaro Munoz, head quality control engineer for Divine Flavor and its parent company, Grupo Alta. Photo courtesy of Divine Flavor’s Michael DuPuis

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