For those of us who are fans of cold hard grape varietals developed by viticulturists from the universities in the Midwest such as Cornell, University of Minnesota, Michigan State, and elsewhere, this week brought some very bad news. The Northern Grapes Project, a consortium of academics, wine makers, and farmers who bonded to explore the possibilities of these cold hardy grapes as shutting down due to lack of continued governmental support.
The Northern Grapes Project, about 7 years old, has been instrumental in exploring how these grapes can be grown successfully in cold climates and the resultant wines brought to market to make a profitable wine industry in regions where it was not thought possible.
Being an amateur wine maker who likes to work with two cold hardy varietals (Foch and Vignoles), I have enjoyed reading about the work being done by leading horticulturists who believe in these grapes as strongly as I do. I feel that the Midwest terroir is best reflected in these cold hardy varietals and that in order to have a truly commercially successful wine industry in the Midwest, these grapes will have to be part of the marketing mix and develop a certain familiarity with urban consumers. Hopefully this will happen in my lifetime!
In any case, the Northern Grapes Project will continue on with a repository of knowledge that will be useful to wineries operating in cold climate locations. For more information on the NGP, visit http://northerngrapesproject.org/