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Wine Grape Production Ag Alternatives Penn State Extension

Time:2016-11-15 00:12wine - Red wine life health Click:

Wine Grape production Extension state

Due to the nature of grape production, considerable production can be obtained on a limited amount of land. Depending on the variety produced, marketing can be either wholesale (for juice, wine, or the fresh market) or retail (primarily fresh table grapes). This marketing diversity can easily fit into current production practices. Because of the high cost of establishing a vineyard, you should carefully research all aspects of this enterprise, including market demand, before investing in wine grape production.

According to the 2002 Pennsylvania Orchard and Vineyard Survey, Pennsylvania has 250 commercial vineyards comprised of 11,000 acres of grapes, which produce an average of 5.8 tons per acre for a total production of over 63,600 tons of grapes. The industry generates an almost $15 million income for commercial vineyards. Vineyards with more than 20 acres make up 92 percent of the production in Pennsylvania. Concord grapes for juice account for 77 percent of total grape production, while table grapes account for only 2 percent. Although Erie County accounts for 72 percent of grape production in Pennsylvania, wine grapes are grown on a small scale throughout the state.

There are 1,800 acres of wine grapes in cultivation, making up 12 percent of the total production. Native American varieties constitute the vast majority of wine grape production (primarily Concord, but also includes significant acreages of Catawba, Niagara, and other varieties). French-American hybrids (the most commonly grown varieties being Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc, and Vignoles) account for 3 percent of the total production. Many of the newer vineyards are being planted with Vitis vinifera varieties including Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, which are classic examples of European wine grapes. These grapes are used to make fine wines that are produced by nearly 115 wineries now licensed in the Commonwealth. According to 2003 data, wine-making is the fastest-growing segment of the grape industry in Pennsylvania with an estimated total economic impact of $200 million annually.


The market you choose to serve will have a large impact on which grapes are the best varieties for you to grow. Current markets for native varieties, such as Concord, Catawba, and Niagara, are not as lucrative as markets for French-American and V. vinifera hybrids. The price per ton for French-American and V. vinifera hybrids can be five to ten times higher than for native varieties. For native varieties, the goal is to produce as many tons per acre as possible due to their lower selling price. For hybrid and V. vinifera varieties used primarily for wine production, quality—not quantity—is the main production goal. Make sure you understand the quality requirements of the winemaker to which you are selling before selecting varieties for your vineyard. Quality grapes are of paramount importance to the winemaker because they have a direct impact on the quality of the wine. French-American and V. vinifera hybrids are more difficult to produce and represent additional risks to the grower. The impact of losses to birds, disease, and frost should be considered when developing your marketing plan. For more information on marketing, please consult the Agricultural Alternatives: Fruit and Vegetable Marketing for Small-scale and Part-time Growers .

If you are producing grapes for the juice market, whether for a local winemaker or for wholesale, your market should be established well before production begins. Depending on your location, juice marketing may also require hauling the crop considerable distances because most bulk wine and juice producers and brokers are located in either Erie County, Pennsylvania, or western New York. The expense of hauling your grapes to market is a major consideration and should be included when evaluating the profitability of wine grape production. However, with many areas now having small wineries, hauling expenses may not be a potential limiting factor.

If you are selling juice, you will need to purchase a press and have adequate facilities and equipment for pressing, storing, and transporting the juice. However, local wineries and home winemakers may be a ready market for fruit or juice produced at your operation. For operations smaller than 5 acres, this should also be considered in the marketing plan.

The growth of small wineries throughout Pennsylvania has been encouraged to promote tourism and recreational development by the Limited Winery Act that was first passed in 1968. This law is enforced by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) and gives preferential treatment to wineries producing 200,000 gallons or less of wine per year. The law allows wineries to sell wine directly to the public at the winery and up to five PLCB-approved retail locations and obtain licenses to participate in off-premises wine and food expositions. One aspect of this law that provides a marketing niche for wine grape growers is the requirement that limited wineries primarily use Pennsylvania grapes. The limited winery can apply for a license from the PLCB that allows them to use up to 25 percent "permitted fruit" (imported fruit or juice derived from fruit produced within 350 miles of the winery), but this means there will always be a strong demand for Pennsylvania wine grapes. For more information on limited wineries and their licensing requirements, visit the PLCB web site.

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