Growing Grapes in Kentucky

In the 18th century, Kentucky was the third largest wine-producing state in America. in fact, the first commercial vineyard in the country was established in Nashville, Kentucky by French vintner Jean Jacques Dufour. After the Prohibition though, Kentucky’s vineyards were literally uprooted. Recently, however, Kentucky’s grape growers and wineries have experienced a comeback, although it may still be long before the region can give California a run for its money. In 2003, there were a total of 102 wineries producing about 500 acres of grapes and 24,000 cases of wine. Kentucky’s soil is very similar to that of north-eastern France, one of the best wine-producing regions in the entire world, where the best vineyards are found along a limestone ridge that is rich in nutrients from deposited fossils. Originally, Kentucky’s warm yet moist climate was ideal for grape growing. However, the hazards of climate change, including the droughts that occurred in 2007, have caused a lot of change in the grape-growing practices in the region. When vintners relied on the moderately warm summers and cool winters of Kentucky before, today they have to irrigate their vineyards to provide adequate watering for their vines. European varieties such as the Vitis vinifera are not well-accustomed to this region, especially because winter freeze is a common problem in spite of the changing weather patterns. Those who plant vinifera in these parts do not expect to receive commercial profits from their harvest. Majority of the grape growers in Kentucky prefer Norton, Vidal Blanc, Chambourcin, Cayuga, and Marechal Foch.

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