AMES, Iowa – May is Iowa Wine Month, celebrating an industry that continues to grow within the state.
Iowa is home to 103 wineries and nearly 300 vineyards, up substantially from just 13 wineries and 15 growers in 1999. The industry makes a $420 million economic impact on the state, according to the most recent impact study conducted in 2012. Additionally, wine-related tourism in Iowa had an economic impact of $41 million, drawing nearly 360,000 visitors to the state.
“Iowa’s wineries are drawing people to their tasting rooms, showcasing locally grown and produced wines,” said Jennie Savits, enology specialist with the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute. “Many of these wineries are in rural areas and they also provide event space for that community, whether it’s for a music event, wedding or other gathering. They are helping enhance the communities where they are located.”
The Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute at Iowa State University works to help the wine-making industry in the state continue to grow.
“We provide resources on best practices for growing grapes and making wine, this includes topics such as winery sanitation and proper processing techniques,” Savits said. “We also help producers with their stylistic choices. Wine in Iowa is unique, due to the cold hardy grapes grown here. You are going to taste something different than from the traditional wine regions.”
The climate in Iowa is much different than what is found in traditional wine-making areas of the world, but the development of cold-tolerant varieties has allowed grapes to be grown in previously unsuitable areas.
“Part of our research is trying to help producers figure out what types of grapes to grow, and the processing techniques to employ to produce their desired style of wine,” Savits said. “The chemistry of grapes grown in Iowa is different than what is grown in California or Europe so we are working to discover what type of characteristics the grapes possess.”
Despite the different climate, two parts of the state have been designated American Viticulture Areas, the southwest corner of Iowa and the northeastern part of the state near the Mississippi River. The designation means the soil and geography of that area is different enough that it will positively affect growing.
For those wishing to learn more about sensory evaluation of wine, the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute will host its Intensive Tasting Proficiency Training in July. The workshop will teach a variety of skills in wine evaluation to become proficient in tasting wines critically.
For a map of all Iowa wineries and more information about the Iowa wine industry visit https://www.extension.iastate.edu/wine.