Wineries assess winter damage, prepare for growing season

Grape and wine producers are welcoming this week’s warmer weather, while hoping the winter didn’t do too much damage to their crops.

Wine experts said this past winter’s prolonged number of days with subzero temperatures damaged some grape varieties.

Linda Jones is Executive Director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.

She said it’s important to note that more than 50 grape varieties are grown in the state, and they all have different tolerances to the cold.

“Really the damage was very sporadic around the state depending on the location. So if you were in a very sensitive area with very sensitive varieties, some of those growers got no crop of a particular variety such as merlot for instance.”

Jones said the last two winters have provided a first time challenge for many wineries in the state. But that has also allowed winemakers to learn which varieties hold up the best under cold conditions.

She said there’s still a high inventory of 2012 and 2013 wines, which were very large crops.

“So there’s a lot of inventory that the wineries are working out of at the moment. They did produce less wine in 2014 and fewer styles of wines, but we still have well over a thousand different labels in the state of wines that consumers can enjoy.”

Jones said this will be a difficult year financially for wineries because the 2014 and 2015 crops will have reduced yields.

The full extent of the damage to this year’s crop won’t be known until later this summer, but Jones is cautiously optimistic that this season will be better for winemakers than last.