Monday, November 20, 2006

A Fine Iowan Wine?

That's right, Iowa. It's got a burgeoning wine industry, says the New York Times:
They have been so successful that more corn, soybean and tobacco farmers are clearing fields and planting grapes. In Iowa alone, a new winery has been licensed every two weeks for the past year, officials say. Now, more than 700 acres are devoted to grapes (compared with 15 in 2000) and there are close to 70 commercial wineries. Iowa has also just hired its first state oenologist to help guide the novice winemakers.
Compare that to Minnesota's approximately 150 acres ( a fact I get from Kevin Zraly's American Wine Guide).

One of the interesting things about American wines outside California and a few other states is that they often come from American grapes. A variety used in Minnesota wines is the Frontenac, a hybrid created by the University of Minnesota in 1995 for cold resistance. According to the wine website Appellation America, even with hearty grapes sometimes growers bury the vines for the winter to keep them alive. The Frontenac hybrid is supposed to be able to survive without burial. Frontenac is now grown all over the Midwest and Canada.

Back to Iowa. In a separate article, the Times' wine critic Eric Asimov says that for now, we can expect some modest wines:
Europe took centuries to determine which grapes should grow where; California has made great progress over the last 60 years but is still working at it. If Midwestern states prove serious about winemaking, it will take decades at least to get pointed in the right direction.
But with all the hybrids and regionals, Asimov points out that states like New York only got respect once they tried making European classics.

But let's not forget that it was American vines that saved Europe from the dreaded Phylloxera, an insect that eat the roots of the vines. American vines live through the blight; European vines do not. Then again, the blight was brought over on American vines in the first place. European growers saved their vines by grafting them to the roots of certain American vines. All of this happened in the late nineteenth century.

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