The Ohio wine industry has been getting more and more dependent on French grapes over the last 30 years. The vinifera, or French grape, the species of grape known to produce the world's best and snootiest wines, is very tender, which would make sense since it is adapted to a Mediterranean climate. But for the last few decades Ohio winemakers, and those in many other temperate regions, have been planting more and more vinifera to replace the good old American grape varieties they used to grow. American grapes, like Concord, the grape juice grape, and French-American hybrids are much hardier in the normal Midwestern winters—or what used to be known as normal winter. But American grapes are better known for producing juice or sweet wines, while hybrids have never been able to compete with the old French standbys in wine quality in the eyes of the Wine Spectator crowd.
|An Ohio vineyard testing the limits|
Regions like the West Coast have climates much like that of France, and it's in places like this where vinifera thrives. But before climate change began to bring milder winters (devasting floods and hurricanes) to the rest of the country, wineries were forced to look to American grapes, and to breeders to develop cold hardy French-American hydrids, in order to have productive vineyards to base a business on. Vinifera vines could not survive most Midwestern winters without a down coat, only questionably able to survive as low as -10 degrees F at their hardiest.
But as the climate has changed over the last few decades, the tender vinifera has crept into the locally-made wine market in the Midwest. It started out as a sort of testing of the waters, with a few renegades planting small vineyards and finding the grapes could survive most winters in the new era of 400 ppm. After a few were successful, they attracted the attention of others who saw dollar signs. Ohio wineries realized that their hardy native grapes didn't produce the kind of wine that demanded top dollar, and didn't produce what is the socially-accepted definition of good wine. So they scrapped their American vines and replaced them with the much more valuable (and vulnerable) French vines. It's unlikely that any of them suspected they were only able to grow the vines now because the climate was changing and the world was gradually warming.
|All primary buds on these vinifera were killed. Secondary and tertiary buds sprouted. Many vines died back to the ground.|