Drought Is Sweet News For Wineries
August 27, 2012

Drought Could Benefit The Wine Industry

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

While drought conditions throughout much of the United States are hampering corn and soybean crops, thus all but ensuring that Americans will be paying more for products relying on those grains as ingredients, there might be some benefit to the lack of rain after all -- to oenophiles, at least.

According to CNN reporter Athena Jones, while corn yields could reach their lowest levels in more than 15 years, the dry conditions can actually benefit grape crops. Less rain results in a greater concentration of sugar in the grapes, she says, while an abundance of precipitation has the opposite affect and can actually weaken their flavor.

"As a general rule, all grapes like it dry. They really thrive on having their leaves dry, not having the molds and mildews and funguses take root on the leaves," Chris Blosser, general manager of Breaux Vineyards in Loudoun County, Virginia, told Jones on Friday. "Around harvest time we like to have as little water as possible. We'd be OK with, pretty much, if we get through October without another drop of rain."

However, the hot conditions could also put younger vines at risk, Jennifer Montgomery of the trade association Wine America told CNN. Those younger vines are costly to plant (as much as $10,000 to $15,000 per acre) and don't reach maturity for between three and seven years, and prolonged period of dry conditions could damage them. Montgomery told Jones than many US vineyards lack crop insurance, which means it would not be easy to replace those vines should the drought have an adverse effect on them.

"Particularly in the Midwest, the hardest hit areas in terms of the drought, there are folks that are thinking that the grapes are going to be a better quality this year because the berries are smaller and the sugar is more concentrated," she explained. "This is an extended event that we haven't gone through before so this is sort of uncharted territory. So we're not quite sure where the line is of where the short-term benefits are and where the long-term risks or long-term damage may show up."

As previously reported by redOrbit.com's own Lawrence LeBlond, the US Drought Monitor announced last Thursday that much of the Midwest was still experiencing severe to exceptional drought conditions. In fact, two-thirds of Iowa, the nation's top corn producer, was in extreme or exceptional drought -- the two worst classifications on the bureau's five-point scale, LeBlond said.

"There has been some improvement, at least in the eastern corn belt. And for the region as a whole we´ve seen a respite from the high temperatures,” University of Nebraska climatologist Mark Svoboda told Reuters in a statement. However, he also cautioned that "above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation" would return over the next few weeks, and that it was starting to look unlikely that the drought would be ending in the near future.