Illinois wine grapes experiencing strong summer despite drought

August 20, 2012

Scott Kanowsky

flickr/RV Bob
Illinois wine growers say the hot, dry conditions this summer have made for smaller berries and more concentrated flavors.

Drought this summer has devastated Illinois’ corn and soybean production, but one crop is actually thriving in the dry, hot weather — wine-producing grapes.

Illinois-based enologist and winemaker Bradley Beam says the hot, dry conditions mean smaller berries with more concentrated flavors.

“You can taste it in the berry, you can see it by the berry size, you can taste it in the fruit, ” Beam said.

“[...] The consumers won’t know until it’s in the bottle, which will take some time — but winemakers can already see pretty much instantly what the immediate impacts are.”

Beam says although grapes can thrive in dry condi tions, this summer’s drought could leave vines vulnerable to damage from winter cold.

But an official from the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association (IGGVA) says vineyards that he’s seen have “looked good.”

According to the IGGVA, Illinois’ wine industry — which is home to more than 100 wineries — is valued at more than $250 million annually.