First Wisconsin Wineries Survey Released
The inaugural 2011 Wisconsin Wineries Survey found that over half of Wisconsin wineries are interested in purchasing Wisconsin grapes this year. But the popularity of local fruit can be a challenge for Wisconsin wine makers. “There’s a shortage of certain kinds of grapes,” according to Alwyn Fitzgerald, winemaker at Fisher King Winery in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, 15 miles west of Madison. “To get the best grapes, you really have to be on your bicycle all year nurturing relationships with your vineyards.”
According to the survey, which was conducted by the Wisconsin Grape Growers Association (WGGA), the varietals in most demand by Wisconsin wineries are Marquette, La Crescent, Marechal Foch and St. Pepin. Becky Rochester, Wisconsin Grape Marketing Coordinator for WGGA said much of the demand for Wisconsin grapes is driven by new wineries. Rochester, who joined WGGA this year under a Specialty Crops Grant from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, said she discovered that there are 70 wineries in Wisconsin although some published reports list the number of wineries at around 40.
The WGGA survey found that 37 wineries in Wisconsin produce at least one wine with 75% or more Wisconsin grown grapes. Rochester said that a new generation of wine drinkers in Wisconsin and new wine shops featuring local wines has increased consumer demand for locally grown fruit. “One new winery in our state wanted 300 tons of Wisconsin grapes this year,” she said. “That’s a lot of grapes for Wisconsin”
To further promote local wine, WGGA is now in the process of rolling out a Grape Growers Wine Accreditation Program. This program will be available to Wisconsin wineries that produce at least one wine with 75% or more Wisconsin Grapes. Wineries that qualify for the Accreditation Program receive marketing materials and access to educational and consumer events including the Wisconsin Garden Expo in Madison.
Interest in planting new vineyards in Wisconsin is growing Rochester said. “We’re encouraging new grape growers to consider growing fewer varieties in larger vineyards,” she said. “It makes business sense to have 10 acres devoted to just a few types of grapes rather than 5 acres devoted to 5 different varieties. ”
For someone considering starting a vineyard in Wisconsin, Julie Coquard, Marketing Director at Wollersheim Winery has the following advice: “Get in touch with wineries to see what varieties of grapes they’re looking for, then figure out which can grow in your area.”
Meanwhile, Alwyn Fitzgerald, who opened Fisher King Winery last year with the goal of featuring local grapes, says his tasting room sales in downtown Mt. Horeb are exceeding expectations. “We may have to buy some white grapes from Pennsylvania this year, but we’re very happy with our growers in Wisconsin and the quality of this year’s harvest.”
To find the “Report of the Wisconsin Wineries Survey 2011” please see visit http://wigrapes.org/