Friday, November 16, 2012

Michigan Grape Acreage Doubled Over Last Decade

Cranberry Dessert wine at Round Barn Winery, D...

Cranberry Dessert wine at Round Barn Winery, Distillery & Brewery in Baroda, Michigan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LANSING -- Michigan's wine grape acreage doubled over the past decade, according to a report recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service.

While acreage of Concord and Niagara grape varieties -- used primarily for juice, jams and jelly -- have remained steady at approximately 12,000 acres over the past 10 years, acreage of wine grapes increased from 1,300 to 2,650 acres.

"This data confirms the steady growth of the wine industry," said Gordon Wenk, Deputy Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, who also chairs the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. "Michigan's wineries are committed to the concept of regional identity by utilizing a high percentage of Michigan-grown fruit in their wines."

The USDA report is based on the 2011 Michigan Fruit Survey, which collected data from grape growers throughout the state. The complete results of the survey are available online and can be accessed from www.michiganwines.com/fastfacts.

Top five wine grape varieties (in acres): Riesling, from 204 acres in 2002 to 595 in 2011; Pinot Noir, from 93 to 235; Chardonnay, from 187 to 215; Pinot Gris, from 53 to 210; and Cabernet Franc, from 54 to 155.

Riesling is the most widely planted wine grape, with acreage nearly tripling in the past decade. Michigan producers are creating world-class Rieslings and earned more than 20 top awards in 2012 for Riesling wines in a variety of styles, from bone dry to sweet ice wine. The International Riesling Foundation lists Michigan among notable global producers.

But Riesling isn't the only star of the survey. Cabernet Franc acreage also tripled in the past decade. Pinot Gris increased nearly 300 percent. And Pinot Noir has replaced Chardonnay as the state's second most planted variety, with acreage increasing 150 percent in the last 10 years. More than 40 varieties of wine grapes with at least two acres of production were reported. Traditional European varieties (vinifera) account for two-thirds of Michigan's wine grape acreage. The balance is mainly comprised of hybrid varieties (crosses between European and native North American varieties).

Traditionally, the wine grape industry in Michigan was concentrated in four primary counties: Berrien, Van Buren, Grand Traverse and Leelanau. Due to winery expansion around the state, the survey shows vineyard land exceeding 10 acres in each of the following counties: Allegan, Antrim, Benzie, Cass, Charlevoix, Jackson, Lenawee, Oceana, Sanilac and Washtenaw.

Michigan ranked fourth in total grape production in the United States in 2011, behind California, Washington and New York, and ranked fifth in wine grape production. Michigan hovers between fifth and eighth place for wine grape production from year to year, depending on weather events that can severely influence regional production volumes in any given year.

According to the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, there are 101 commercial wineries producing more than 1.3 million gallons of Michigan wine annually. That number has increased from 32 wineries in 2002 producing 400,000 gallons. For more information about the Michigan wine grape industry, visit the council's website, www.michiganwines.com.

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