Growing Grapes in Nebraska

Nebraska had a burgeoning grape and wine industry before the Prohibition, with over 5,000 acres of vineyards in the 19th century. It was only during the 1980s did Nebraska’s sleeping grape growing industry wake up when the Nebraska farm bill was passed. Today, the Nebraska grape growing industry has grown to more than 20 wineries. However, with Nebraska’s extreme temperatures – long hot summers followed by harsh winters – and erratic amounts of rainfall, it is a surprise that Nebraska even has a progressive wine industry. Most vineyards and wineries are located in the southeast valleys near the Missouri river and the sandy hills in the west. European cultivars of the Vitis vinifera variety are not suited to the cold winters of Nebraska. Growers in this area prefer cold-hardy American varieties which are resistant to diseases that proliferate in the hot, humid states. Recently, Nebraska has started developing French-American hybrids adopted from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and New York. These are Edelweiss, Vignoles, St. Croix, and de Chaunac, all of which are used to make award-winning wines that can give classic California wine a run for its money.

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