Growing Grapes in Florida

Florida has already been making wine three centuries before California became a state. However, grape growers in this region face the huge problem of dealing with the long hot and humid months that encourage the growth of most fungal grape diseases. The southeastern US is home to black rot, anthracnose, powdery mildew, downy mildew, and all kinds of fruit rots. European varieties, the Vitis vinifera, are more susceptible to diseases. Most recently, Florida suffered a major blow to the vinifera growing industry because of Pierce Disease, a bacterial disease that attacks the vine’s vascular system. Fortunately, though, some wild grape species native to Florida have adapted to the region’s climate, making them very resistant to diseases. Muscadines are a good choice of varietal for growing grapes in this region. They have skins tougher than other varietals and have a very distinct aroma. When Muscadines are ripe, they drop off from the bunch while other varietals cling on to the others, thus the name bunch grapes. In the 1930s, University of Florida experiments led to the development of Muscadine clones. Eventually, Florida started growing disease-resistant, thin-skinned Muscadine varietals. These varietals are Stover, Blanc Du Bois, Swanee, and Miss Blanc.

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