University-developed, cold-resistant grapes have national impacts

Allison Kronberg

The Minnesota Grape Growers Association is hosting an annual conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in St. Paul, where leaders of The Northern Grapes Project will speak, on Feb. 20 and 21, according to a University of Minnesota press release.

The Northern Grapes Project is a collaboration between the University and private breeders, which created grapes in the late 90s that can withstand temperatures in excess of -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

"The development of cold-hardy grape varieties has completely changed the grape and wine industry in colder climates," University of Minnesota Extension researcher, Bill Gartner told U News. He and his colleague studied the economic impact of the cold-climate grapes.

The University Extension study, released at the conference, found that the grapes have led to a completely new wine industry. The industry has expanded production areas, created 12,600 new jobs and brought in $401 million in national profits.

The study also found that 5,400 acres across 12 states, including Minnesota, have been growing the grapes since 1996. University-developed grapes account for roughly 60 percent of that area.