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New study shows wine industry surging in Iowa

Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 11:12 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — The Iowa wine industry has seen jumps in production and consumption in recent years, and the success may soon lead to expansion in the market.

A recent study by Frank, Rimerman + Co. reported several increases in the wine industry, such as a 79 percent increase in economic impact, from 2008 to 2012.

While Iowa has seen an increase in open wineries and gallons produced, Iowa State Extension viticulture specialist Mike White said the success also has to do with the culture change in the Midwest.

“Now, it’s not going out for ice cream. There’s other things to do, and more and more people are looking at wineries as a place to relax, go eat a meal, have weddings and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “It becomes a destination, and that’s where the growth is.”

The full economic impact of Iowa wine and grapes reached $420 million in 2012, compared to $234 million in 2008. That success mirrored several other increases in categories like full-time jobs, gallon production, number of wineries and acres, and wine-related tourism.

Gallons of wine produced increased from 186,700 to 296,900, a 59 percent increase, while the number of wineries in the state jumped from 74 to 99. The industry also saw an increase in tourism. Expenditures increased from $27 million to $41 million, and the number of tourists jumped from 237,000 to 358,000.

For Matt Nissen, manager and winemaker at Prairie Moon Winery, events like weddings and summer concerts have been crucial to his success. Since opening in 2006, Nissen said the winery and vineyard has continued to expand, and the business currently uses 11 to 12 grape-bearing acres, complete with 11 varieties of grapes.

“Wineries have doubled in Iowa, so there’s a lot more competition,” Nissen said. “So events are huge for us. Events drive our success in the summer, and then we do a lot of Christmas sales.”

Murli Dharmadhikari, director at Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute and Iowa State associate assistant professor in food science and human nutrition, said the survey results are not surprising, especially with many consumers looking for a local business like Prairie Moon Winery.

“People have that sense of place on the quality of fruit and quality of wine,” he said.

Along with the developments over the last few years, White said Iowa has started using a larger variety of grapes. Around 1995, local grapes were combined with types specifically grown for wine to create “cold climate hybrid” grapes. White said Iowa started using more hybrids around 2000, and now about 20 types of grapes are used specifically for wine, while an addition 20 types are still used to make juices and jams. But as wineries become more popular destinations, White said consumers are developing a new taste palette.

“More and more people go to these wineries and they start to understand more and taste different wines, and they move into these cold climate hybrid wine grapes,” he said.

As more hybrid grapes could be coming in, Dharmadhikari predicts that grape varieties may decrease as Iowa winemakers begin to understand which grapes work best in their climate.

“Right now, everybody is making different kinds of wine, just to find out what we do better,” he said. “So we will not have as many, but they will be better quality.”

While Iowa wineries currently hold six percent of the state market right now, White said he would like to see the number increase to eight percent in the next few years. White predicted that Iowa may see a few more wineries built in the future, but the size of the wineries will be the part that sees the most expansion.

“If you think the wine business is all about wine, that’s not true,” he said. “You’ve got to make it a good time, a place to relax, for the customers and they’ll come back and it’ll continue to get bigger.”

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©2014 the Ames Tribune, Iowa

Visit the Ames Tribune, Iowa at www.amestrib.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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