The CREC vineyard was planted in 2006 and 2007. It consists of 19 northern-hardy varieties, most of which are University of Minnesota (UMN) or Elmer Swenson varieties. The varieties were chosen based on the planting at NDSU’s Absaraka Horticulture Research Farm and the listings in northern grape variety catalogs. The grapes are arranged as a variety trial, with four plants scattered in four replications.
- Clinton (12 plants)
- ES 6-16-30
- ES 8-2-43 (4 plants)
- Frontenac Gris
- King of the North
- Louise Swenson
- MN 1200 (test)
- Petite Amie
- Prairie Star
- Somerset Seedless
- St. Croix
- St. Pepin
Across the world, people love to grow grapes and North Dakotans are no different! In 2009, the Indian Wine Academy estimated that 44.0% of grapes were grown in Europe, 26.5% were grown in Asia, and 20.7% were grown in North America. The development and release of cold-hardy grape cultivars by UMN has turned many northern states into grape growers and wine producers. Since 2000, cold climate wine making and grape production has grown to a conservative estimate of 3,152 vineyard acres and 349 wineries in 14 states. Complete economic impact for all states is not available but, conservatively, direct economic benefits across the Upper Midwest and Northeast are in excess of $300 M, with an additional indirect economic impact of $300M.1 North Dakota has eight licensed wineries and 12 vineyards.
There are two main difficulties in growing cold climate hybrid grapes:
- Ripening the fruit (so that sugars are increased and acids are lowered)
- Developing desirable flavor and aroma compounds
Growers modify many practices to overcome these problems; primarily, they train the vines on trellises for optimum sun and air exposure, they grow less fruit per plant, they manage the number of buds to increase the amount of sunlight hitting the clusters and they manage the vineyard floor. One factor that is almost impossible to overcome though is the amount of heat available in a growing year. At the UMN vineyard, optimal ripening of ‘Marquette’ takes place at about 2550-2600 GDD (growing degree days). In Carrington, North Dakota, the 30-year average is 2436 GDD. You can see that growing grapes can be a struggle in our state. Winemakers must be creative and work to lower acidity in their wines.
Against these odds, North Dakota grape growers and wineries are looking toward the future. NDSU and Dr. Harlene Hatterman-Valenti are participating in the Northern Grapes Project, a partnership of research and local industry in 12 states. Some of the goals of the project are to use research to optimize growing practices, to improve winemaking when using cold climate cultivars and to provide information that will help customers recognize locally-produced cold climate wines.
The North Dakota Grape and Wine Association has worked with the state legislature for several years to secure funding for breeding grapes that are even more cold hardy than those currently available. In spring 2013, about 6,000 seedlings will begin their journey on the road to becoming a hardy wine grape.
The source of these statistics and text is from the narrative of:
- Northern grapes: Integrating viticulture, winemaking, and marketing of new cold-hardy cultivars supporting new and growing rural wineries. http://blogs.cce.cornell.edu/grapes/files/2011/01/CCSCRI_Narrative.pdf
- The Northern Grapes Project. http://northerngrapesproject.org/ (excellent viticulture info)
Other links for more hardy grape information:
North Dakota Grape and Wine Association: www.ndgga.org
Minnesota Grape Growers Association: www.mngrapegrowers.com
University of Minnesota: www.grapes.umn.edu
Ohio State University: http://viticulture.hort.iastate.edu/home.html
Michigan State University: www.grapes.msu.edu