HYBRID-GRAPE IN FLORIDA’S WINE COUNTRY

Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 6:18 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - While much home wine making is based upon grapes from the traditional growing areas such as California and New York, the availability of Florida-grown fruits suitable for wine is far greater than is generally realized. There is a modest but rapidly expanding grape industry ranging from commercial vineyards to backyard vines.

“The thicker skins help with the actually humidity, the heat, and they’re mainly the type of grape we can grow in Florida; especially for wine.” Says Audrey Lefler a Bluefield Estate Winery Winemaker.

When compared to Florida’s citrus production grapes are not even on the radar, but in the 192os a moderate grape industry did exist. During that year over 95% of all Florida’s vines were wiped out by plant disease. Since then institute of food and agricultural sciences (IFAS) research efforts have begun to bear fruit both literally and figuratively.

For 75 years, university of Florida researchers have developed muscadine varieties that flourish in Florida’s subtropical climate, well-suited to the state’s soils and perfect for wine making.

Audrey Lefler, Bluefield Estate Winery Winemaker; “We have people who pick the grapes to make their own wine, as well as make jellies, jams and then we also have people who come every week to pick grapes to eat throughout the week.”

Our mild winter climate and early spring season also offers unique opportunities for early-season, fresh-market muscadines, a few weeks ahead of Georgia and North Carolina.

A pleasant surprise to many Floridians, and one reason for the growing interest in home wine making, is the popularization of Florida-grown grapes. But it doesn’t stop there.

Florida ranks 17th in production of wine, it is now 3rd in total wine consumption and the forecast is optimistic. As a result of grape research and extension activities, the state cooperative extension service receives numerous public inquiries concerning grape growing and wine making.

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