Grape growers in places like New England and the Upper Midwest used to be limited to a few varieties like Concord. Even these grapes didn’t always ripen in our relatively short growing season, and even when they did ripen, they were suitable mostly for jelly and juice. Their “foxy” flavor was nothing that wine drinkers wanted in their glass.
But all that is changing. The University of Minnesota has an active grape breeding program, and they have created new varieties that not only survive the northern winter, but can be made into wine that is excellent by any standard. Another group of winter-hardy grape varieties was created by the late Elmer Swenson, a private breeder from Osceola, Wisconsin.
Vineyards that will survive to minus 25, minus 35, some even to minus 40 degrees F. are now being planted in places like Minnesota and Quebec. Excellent wine is being produced and sold at these vineyards, and more vineyards are being planted as fast as the vines can be propagated. Hardy table grapes are also being planted. The world of grape growing has truly moved North!
From a few original and intrepid wine-makers, the business of wine making and grape growing in Vermont is taking off. There are more than a dozen registered wineries in the state, even more vineyards, and more are coming on line every year.
We are making award-winning wines from cold hardy grapes grown here in Vermont using grapes like Frontenac, Lacrescent and St. Croix as well as from more traditional varieties like Riesling. Our unique climate is also excellent for bee-keeping , apples and berries, and our meads, ciders and fruit wines reflect that. And don’t forget our Ice Wines, which are made from grapes that freeze on the vines, because we are among the handful of producers of this specialty dessert wine in the entire country.
Wine lovers the world over know the pleasure of local food and wine, hand-crafted by real people you can talk to, and reflecting the terroir of the place it is from. Our Vermont wine makers and grape growers are emerging from the heart of this tradition. The future looks bright, so pour and enjoy Vermont wine!
Some of the Grape and Wine Varieties of Vermont…
Red Wine Grapes
Frontenac is a very cold hardy vine and has borne a full crop after temperatures as low as -30 F. Frontenac wine typically has a pleasant cherry aroma with berry and plum evident in many cases. The color is usually a garnet red.
Marquette sets a new standard of excellence for winter-hardy red wine grapes. The wine is complex with berry, cherry, black pepper and spice, and is more tannic than other northern reds.
St. Croix has produced many award-wining red wines. It is widely grown in Minnesota, Connecticut and Quebec. St. Croix wines have a pleasant berry-like fruitiness in the nose and mouth.
White Wine Grapes
LaCrescent is one of the best of the new white grapes from the University of Minnesota. It thrives in VT producing wine with intense and delicious apricot flavor, good body and balanced acidity.
Riesling is a noble grape from alpine regions of Europe that adapts well to the Vermont climate. Riesling wine can be dry or sweet, with great body and complexity.
Traminette is a wonderful grape recently developed by Cornell. It is a hybrid of the classic Gewurztraminer, and produces a delightful, spicy wine that is the perfect complement to Asian cuisine.
Mead is wine made from honey. It is the oldest fermented beverage known to humankind. With the emergence of local beekeeping in Vermont, mead is experiencing a renaissance. Mead can be either sweet or dry and flavored with fruit or spices.
Cider can be fermented to make hard cider, a drink which before prohibition was more ubiquitous than beer. Ice Cider is a dessert wine made from cider that is first concentrated using Vermont’s natural cold and then fermented.
Fruit wines have been made in Vermont for decades. Made from combinations of apples, raspberries, pears, blueberries, cranberries and rhubarb. They can range from very dry dinner wines to sweet dessert wines.