We don't often think of Michigan as a wine producing State do we, but look at the facts:
- Michigan has 13,500 acres of vineyards making Michigan the fourth largest grape-growing state.
- Most of this acreage is devoted to juice grapes such as Concord and Niagara.
- About 700 hectares are devoted to wine grapes, making Michigan the eighth in wine grape production.
- Vineyard area has increased 24% since 1997.
- Michigan’s 45 commercial wineries produce more than 200,000 cases of wine annually, making the state 13th in wine production. The vast majority of production is from Michigan-grown grapes.
- Wineries are popular tourist destinations, attracting more than 600,000 visitors annually. Some of these wineries also have retail stores where it’s possible to purchase anything from a wine cellar kit to a wine cooler refrigerator.
- Wine production and winery tourism annually contribute $75 million to the state’s economy.
- Three types of grapes are used for wine in Michigan:
- Vinifera varieties -- these are the classic European varieties such as Chardonnay, Riesling (the most widely planted white), Pinot Noir (the most widely planted red), Pinot Grigio/Gris and Cabernet Franc; 58% of Michigan’s wine grapes are vinifera. Since 1998, 71% of the new plantings in Michigan have been vinifera varieties.
- Hybrid varieties (sometimes called French/American hybrids) -- these are botanical crosses between vinifera varieties and grapes native to North America. Common names are Vidal, Chambourcin, Marechal Foch and Vignoles; 39% of Michigan’s wine grapes are hybrids.
- Native varieties -- actually close relatives of true native varieties. Usual names are Concord and Niagara. A Mere 3% of Michigan’s wine is produced from these varieties.
- Most of Michigan’s quality wine grapes grow within 40 kms of Lake Michigan. Here, the “lake effect” protects the vines with snow in winter, retards bud break in spring helping avoid frost damage, and extends the growing season by up to four weeks.
- Michigan has deemed four federally approved viticultural areas (AVAs). In the northwest part of the state, near Traverse City, lie the Leelanau Peninsula and the Old Mission Peninsula. This area has a growing season averaging 145 days and an average heat accumulation of 2,350 growing degree days; 51% of Michigan’s wine grapes grow here. In the southwest part of the state lie the Lake Michigan Shore and Fennville appellations, where 45% of Michigan’s wine grapes are grown. This area has a growing season averaging 160 days and an average heat accumulation of 2,750 heat units. Both are Region 6 on the USDA plant hardiness zone map.
- Harvest begins for early hybrid varieties at the end of August in the southwest and may extend into November for late-ripening vinifera varieties in the northwest.
- Michigan wines win the majority of medals at prestigious competitions every year. More than 16% of the wines entered in the Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition had already won Gold Medals in regional, national and international competitions. A list of winners is available upon request.
- Michigan wineries make many styles of wine, from dry to sweet including Ice Wine, sparkling, fortified, fruit wines and eau-de-vie (fruit brandy).
- Michigan wines are typically “cool climate” - clean, crisp, balanced wines that exhibit real varietal character.
- Michigan Wines are very popular choices in the offerings of Wine Clubs
where you set up a monthly subscription to order wine online
Next time you're savoring your favorite Chardonnay, check the label. It just may not have originated in California!
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