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Minnesota wines and grapes: Growth continues, many plan expansion

Media Contact: Allison Sandve, University of Minnesota Extension media relations, office 612-626-4077,

ST. PAUL, Minn. (4/18/2017)—The farm-to-table presence of Minnesota grapes-turned-into-wine continues its growth as the latest University of Minnesota cultivar, the Itasca, is planted for the first year.

An analysis by the University of Minnesota Extension found the economic impact of the state’s vineyards and wineries grew to $80.6 million in economic activity, up from $53.6 million four years earlier. On average, each winery reported average sales of $580,000 in 2015, from $311,000 in 2011.
Grapes on vine
Itasca: Newest grape developed at University of Minnesota 

Other indicators of growth include:

  • Visits to tasting rooms doubled, from 6,800 to 13,600
  • Percent of hours provided by paid labor went from 22 to 30 percent 
  • Average cost charged per bottle went from $13 to $15 
“The industry continues to grow professionally. They’re not giving wine away anymore because they don’t have to, while that was the case 10 years ago and it even might have been five years ago,” said Extension senior economic analyst Brigid Tuck, who conducted the study. Tuck, who conducted the study with Extension economist William Gartner, said the identity of Minnesota wine is taking hold. “Minnesotans are starting to identify with Minnesota wine.”

The conclusions are drawn from responses from 110 Minnesota grape growers and winemakers surveyed in 2016. They also want to get bigger: 31 percent said they intend to expand significantly within five years and another 39 percent indicated some expansion is planned. Another 15 percent, though, indicate they hope to sell their operations within the next five years.

With lower acidity and higher sugar content than other cold-hardy grapes developed here, the new white grape Itasca will broaden Minnesota winemakers’ opportunities, said Matt Clark, Extension specialist and assistant professor of horticulture at the University. The first Itasca vines are being planted this spring; commercial wine made from Itasca will arrive in another two to three years.

“Minnesota is showing growth rates similar to other emerging wine markets like Oregon, which has grown dramatically in the last 25 years. And we have a lot of enthusiasm for local foods,” Clark said. “Wine is made in the vineyard, with the quality of grapes. At the University, we’re focused on helping build best practices in the growing community and sharing them.”

Minnesota’s wine and grape-growing experiences were part of a larger research project by Tuck and Gartner, which examined the wine industry in 12 northern states.

For more news from U of M Extension, visit or contact Extension Communications at University of Minnesota Extension is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

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