Ohio’s wine, grape and related industries had a total economic value to the state of $1.31 billion in 2016 according a survey commissioned by Ohio Grape Industries Committee. There are currently around 1,800 acres of grapes and more than 270 wineries in Ohio. Extension programs and applied research projects at OSU South Centers and OARDC, The Ohio State University, have played an important role in helping wine grape growers and winemakers succeed in Ohio.
There is currently a major shortage of Ohio grown wine grapes. Ohio wineries need Ohio grown grapes for the production of Ohio wines. Quite a few growers have planted grapevines all over the state of Ohio. In southern Ohio, the largest vineyard has about 70 acres while others are in the range of 5 to 15 acres. It is exciting to see award wines made from grapes grown in southern Ohio. Due to the longer growing season, southern Ohio is well known for red wine grape production. There has been a long history of grape production along Ohio River back in the 1800s.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I get into the wine grape production business?
Well, maybe. The good news is that you should not have any problem selling wine grapes, if they are of high quality. The bad news is that it is not easy to grow high quality grapes in Ohio. However, it still can be done, if you do the right stuff.
How do I get started?
Proper site selection is very critical. A site of high elevation and well-drained soil may be a good place to start. Get a soil map of the potential vineyard site. Have your soil tested for soil pH and nutrient levels. Most grape cultivars prefer slight acidic soils. Soil drainage is also important for the well-being of the grapevines. If the soil does not drain well, tile drainage between rows will need to be installed. Typically, 4” perforated drainage tiles are installed at a depth of two feet, between rows throughout the vineyard. It is an expensive proposition, but a necessary remedy.
What cultivars should I plant?
Cultivar selection is probably the second most important decision you will ever make. Wine quality, yield, ease of growing, and winter hardiness are some of the common attributes that growers need to consider. There are three main types of wine grape cultivars in Ohio. They are American, European/French, and French/American hybrids.
During the recent years, we have focused on cold hardy wine grape cultivars due to severe cold injuries. Some of the cold hardy cultivars in our trial are Aromella, Frontanec series, Marquette, Noiret, Traminette, and Vidal. Other not-so-hardy cultivars are Cabernet Franc and Regent. For a more comprehensive list of wine grape cultivars suggested for Ohio, please refer to the Midwest Grape Production Guide. This bulletin can be purchased from OSU Extension offices throughout Ohio or from the CFAES Publications Office at extensionpubs.osu.edu. Search for bulletin #919.
What is the proper spacing for the vineyard?
Well, it depends on the vine vigor, soil conditions, and the length of the growing season. Typical spacing between vines is about 6 feet while some more vigorous cultivars need a spacing of 8 feet between vines. The row spacing is dependent on the width of your tractor. The minimum row spacing is 9 feet. The row spacing of the vineyards at OSU South Centers in Piketon is 10 feet. The 12-feet row spacing may be needed if your tractor is a regular tractor, not a narrower vineyard tractor.
How do I manage diseases and insects in my vineyard?
There are quite a few diseases and several insects that grape growers have to deal with in Ohio. Refer to the Midwest Grape Production Guide for pictures and identification of common insects and diseases in Ohio.
Growers are encouraged to refer to the Midwest Fruit Pest Management Guide for the current spray schedule. This bulletin can be downloaded here or purchased from Purdue University at https://ag.purdue.edu/hla/hort/pages/sfg_sprayguide.aspx
How do I manage bird damage to my grapes?
Birds can consume a lot of grapes. Sometimes, birds might even peck the grape berries off. There are a few suggested remedies for managing bird deprivation. Bird netting seems to be the most consistently effective methods. There are side netting for Vertical Shoot Positioning System, over the row netting for High Cordon Bilateral System, and the Smart Net System over the entire planting. All of these methods have their pros and cons. But, a bird management system is absolutely essential for successful grape production.