Last week the University of Minnesota released a new cold hardy white grape which they have named Itasca.
Growing grapes in colder climates like the Northern and Midwestern states has always been a challenge but due to the diligent efforts of two leading universities - UM and Cornell - there are now several grape varietals that can withstand severe winters. These varietals all make wine that is acceptable table wine and can be finished from dry to sweet.
The biggest obstacle in making wine from these grapes is the high levels of acidity that come from decreased hang times and a shorter growing season. That's why some winemakers such as Larry Mawby in Michigan, prefer to use these grapes for sparkling wines. Sparkling wines tend to be lower in alcohol and the process of adding sugar to the finished product reduces the bracing taste of the acidity.
Itasca, just released by the UM, will be available for planting in 2017.
It takes 3-5 years to grow the vines to produce a harvest so we won't be trying any wine from this grape until 2022!