Viticulture 101


The New York wine industry has historically been based on the native grape varieties – Concord, Catawba, Niagara, and Delaware – and has grown to include hybrid and vinifera varieties.  Several major processors throughout the state process the majority of the native varieties into juices and wines.  As the wine industry has grown throughout New York State, the Concord grape has emerged as the primary juice source for wine, both in New York and across the country.

These Grape Research and Production Education (G.R.a.P.E.) pages provide essential introductory information on commercial grape production and wine grape growing from day one.  For individuals new to grape growing, these pages are an indispensable resource, from business planning to variety selection to the first harvest. 

Planting a vineyards requires plenty of time, patience, planning, and monetary support.  Follow the links on the right for steps to plan, plant, and manage a new vineyard business venture.

New York Viticulture Production Regions

New York State hosts 5 major grape-growing and wine-making regions, all of which are near major bodies of water that temper the climate in those areas, making wine grape production possible.  The five regions are the Lake Erie Region, the Niagara Escarpment Region, the Finger Lakes Region, the Long Island Region, and the Hudson Valley Region.

1. Long Island – The warm maritime climate provides a long growing season, which means V. vinifera can thrive in this region. Sandy soils and high water table, however, can make vineyard and nutrition management a little tricky, as the residential property often abuts vineyard properties. Foliar feeds tend to be used more frequently here, and there are more restrictions on herbicides and pesticides in this region. For more information on this region, contact the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center for more information.
2. Hudson Valley – The Hudson Valley is one of the significant grape production areas in New York and the producer of a variety of fine wines.  The area is has ideal soils and is close to an enlightened market including New York City. The primary limitation to the successful economic production of many of the V. vinifera varieties is expensive land cost and limited availability, periodic critical cold winter temperatures, and the steepness of the slopes in the best sites climatically. For more information on this region, contact the Hudson Valley Regional Fruit Program for more information.
3. Finger Lakes Region – The Finger Lakes also influence the climate in this region by buffering the cold temperatures of the winters and lending winter protection of vines in most years. Winter freezes and spring frosts are potential problems in this region, which is why hilling up is important for winter tender varieties. However, production ranges from native to hybrid to V. vinifera species of grapes. For more information on this region, contact the Finger Lakes Regional Grape Program for more information.
4. Niagara Escarpment Region – Lake Ontario provides protection from spring frosts and winter damage to vines, allowing many winter-tender V. vinifera varieties to grow well here, in addition to many hybrids. This region has the second longest growing season in New York State, allowing for production of peaches and winter tender fruits, such as V. vinifera grapes. While Concord still dominates the production acreage in this region, many more wine grapes are being planted every year. For more information on this region, contact the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program for more information.
5. Lake Erie Region – As the name indicates, Lake Erie provides winter protection in this region, and hybrids and winter-hardy V. vinifera varieties are planted here. Again, Concord production far outweighs other wine grape production in this region, but the wine grape industry continues to grow rapidly. Hybrid and V. vinifera production is possible in this region, although winter damage is a possibility and needs to be addressed through covering the graft union with soil for winter. For more information on this region, contact the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program for more information.


Funding for this web resource came from:
New York Wine and Grape Foundation 
The Lake Erie Regional Grape Research & Extension Program, Inc.