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The Northern Grapes Project: integrating viticulture, enology, and marketing of new cold-hardy wine grape cultivars in the Midwest and Northeast United States

Martinson, T. E., Mansfield, A. K., Luby, J. J., Gartner, W. C., Dharmadhikari, D., Domoto, P.
Acta horticulturae 2016 no.1115 pp. 3-12
USDA, Vitis, ancestry, business enterprises, business management, commercialization, cultivars, disease resistance, fruit composition, growers, growth habit, marketing strategies, markets, specialty crops, tourism, viability, vineyards, viticulture, wine grapes, wine industry, winemaking, wines, Northeastern United States
The emergence of cold hardy, Vitis riparia-based wine grape cultivars in the 1990s created a new and rapidly expanding industry of small vineyard and winery enterprises (over 300 wineries, 2,400 ha of grapes, 1300 growers) in more than 12 states in the Upper Midwest and Northeast USA, boosting rural economies in those regions. While the North American ancestry of these cultivars confers exceptional climatic adaptation (surviving as low as -40°C) and disease resistance, other challenges to production, processing, and marketing slow their successful commercialization in regional and national markets. Because their growth habit and fruit composition differ from traditional, cold-tender V. vinifera cultivars, new viticultural and enological practices are needed. Marketing tools are also required to educate consumers unfamiliar with the grapes and the wine styles they produce. Consequently, the long-term viability of these new businesses depends on coordinated research and extension to optimize viticultural, enological, business management, and marketing practices. The Northern Grapes Project funded by the USDA Specialty Crops Research Initiative seeks to meet the needs of this developing industry using a holistic systems approach, integrating the areas of production, distribution and processing, and consumers and markets. Objectives target optimized viticultural practices, genomic characterization, cultivar evaluation, enological characterization, optimized wine production, marketing strategies, agritourism, and product familiarity and preference.