USDA Confirms Growth in Michigan’s Wine Grape Industry

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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 fromwww.michiganwines.com/fastfacts.

Top five wine grape varieties (in acres):

                                                           2002                      2011

                Riesling                             204                         595

                Pinot Noir                         93                           235

                Chardonnay                      187                          215

                Pinot Gris                          53                           210

                Cabernet Franc                 54                           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. 

The Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council is an 11-member board that supports the growth of the grape and wine industry in Michigan. It is housed in the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, which is the official state agency charged with serving, promoting and protecting the food, agriculture and agricultural economic interests of the people of the state of Michigan.

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