Most of the grapes in Glenn Warnebold’s vineyard in Missouri’s picturesque wine country are about two-thirds of their usual size. Others have been reduced to raisins by the drought that burned up many crops across the Midwest this summer.
Yet Warnebold figures it could be a good year with the drought concentrating the fruit’s flavors and sugar, which will turn to alcohol during fermentation. His red Norton and white Chardonel grapes, although small, hold the promise of standout wine from a region better known for corn and soybeans.
Wineries have been popping up in grape-growing regions of Missouri, Michigan and other Midwestern states for years, but they’ve generally been seen more as tourist draws than quality vintners. Some are hoping this year will help change that, and in a summer that has been devastating for most farmers, grape growers have a bit to cheer about.
“The fruit will be better, overall, for reds and whites, than last year, when it was wet,” said Tony Debevc, who has a 170-acre Ohio vineyard. “If it continues to be dry like this, the wine industry will be better overall. And personally, we can expand in the red category, and it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.”