Dept. of Horticulture, 245 Horticulture, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011



Dr. Diana Cochran
Dept. of Horticulture
Ph. 515-294-0035

Cold Climate Cultivars

A Review of Cold Climate Grape Cultivars

Lisa Ann Smiley, Paul Domoto, Gail Nonnecke, Dept. of Horticulture
W. Wade Miller, Dept. of Agricultural Education and Studies
Iowa State Universityz

In recent years there has been an increasing interest in growing grapes in the upper Midwest and other cold climate regions of North America. One of the problems growers face in these regions is selecting cultivars (cultivated varieties) that will withstand our severe winters, mature during short growing seasons, and be productive. As grape acreage increases in cold climate regions, too often cultivar selections are being made based upon testimonial or anecdotal information. With the high costs of vineyard establishment, there is an increasing need for a standard reference to assist growers in selecting the best adapted cultivars. When selecting grape cultivars to grow, one must consider the characteristics of the fruit as well as the vine. The vines have to be adapted to local growing conditions and the fruit must meet fresh or processing market requirements.

This project was undertaken to develop a reference that will be useful for selecting grape cultivars to plant in cold climates. Such a reference should document and standardize origin, viticulture characteristics, disease and pest resistance, cold hardiness, and wine quality characteristics. Specific objectives of the project were to assemble information on:

  1. The origin of the cultivars including: synonyms; pedigree; county or state of origin, breeder and institution; date of cross and release or introduction into the U.S.; and type.
  2. Viticultural and fruit characteristics including: growth habit and vigor; time of bud break and productivity on secondary buds; days from bloom to harvest; specific cultural concerns; and cluster and berry characteristics.
  3. Pest concerns including: a standardized ranking of susceptibility to disease; specific pest concerns, sensitivity to sulfur, copper and other pesticides; and sensitivity to grow regulator herbicide drift (2,4-D and dicamba).
  4. Wine quality and characteristics including: suitability for wine making; styles of wine made from the cultivar; aroma, balance, body and taste characteristics; typical soluble solids, pH and titratable acidity (TA) at harvest; harvest notes and other specific concerns.
  5. Cold hardiness including: a standardized hardiness rating, length of growing season and susceptibility to frost and winter injury.
Methods and Procedures

The cultivars that have been included in this study were selected on the basis of their adaptability to the environmental limitations of cold climates. Cultivars were included because they have the potential, are currently being grown, or have a history of being grown in cold climates. Those selected have been recognized as important cultivars for their individual merit or for their value in breeding.

This publication was developed as a reference resource. For this reason, information was cited from the most original source obtainable, preferably a cultivar release article or patent. When that was not possible, literature published as close to the date of release or introduction was used, or was deferred to those having experience with the cultivar.

Every effort was made to cite literature from the most original source, such as cultivar release bulletins from universities; release to trade notices in industry journals; patents (when applicable); annual grower reports; personal communications with breeders, those with working knowledge of the cultivars or were familiar with its history. Some clarification of synonyms, pedigree and type was also obtained from the National Grape Registry. Other supporting information came from university research reports, educational handouts or resource guides prepared by Midwest and Eastern U.S. viticulturists. Several viticulture books and websites were also used.

Some of the environmental limitations of cold climates are:

  1. Cold Tolerance: Winter
    Cold hardiness is determined by the ability of the cultivar to withstand the lowest temperatures expected in an area. This can be influenced by the vine’s suitability to the site during the growing season. The general health of the vine and factors such as crop load, pest and disease control will impact survivability.
  2. Late Frosts: Spring
    Cultivars that have an early bud break are susceptible to late spring frosts. Although some cultivars are capable of producing a crop on secondary buds, they may prove to be unsuitable due to reduced productivity.
  3. Length of Season
    Although a cultivar may be capable of surviving cold winters and tolerating a late spring frost, it is also important that the length and relative warmth of the season be considered. Unfortunately some desirable cultivars require more growing time than a short season growing area will allow.

We wish to thank the following for their contributions in developing this review:
Dr. Bruce Bordelon, Purdue University, West Layfatte, Indiana.
Patrick Byers. Southwest Missouri State University, Mountain Grove, Missouri.
Hudson Cattell, Editor, Wine East Magazine, Lancaster, Pennsylvainia.
Dr. Anne Fennell, South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota.
Dr. Helen Fisher, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Mark Hart, Mount Ashwabay Vineyard and Orchard, Bayfield, Wisconsin.
Peter Hemstad, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota.
John Marshall, Great River Vineyard and Nursery, Lake City, Minnesota.
Dr. Peter Oldak, Jewell Towne Vineyards, South Hampton, New Hampshire.
Bob Parke, Co-author of Northern Winework, Stillwater, Minnesota.
Tom Plocher, Co-author of Northern Winework, Hugo, Minnesota.
Dennis Portz, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Sue Rak, Double A Vineyards, Inc., Fredonia, New York.
Dr. Bruce Reisch, Cornell University, NY St. Ag. Expt. Sta., Geneva, New York.
Silvija Ruisa, Latvian State Institute of Fruit-Growing, Dobele, Lativa.
Ed Swanson, Cuthills Vineyards, Pierce, Nebraska.

z This review was submitted by Lisa Ann Smiley in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Masters of Agriculture degree awarded by Iowa State University in May 2008.  Program committee: Paul Domoto, major advisor; Gail Nonnecke and W. Wade Miller committee members.

Copyright © Lisa Smiley, 2008. All rights reserved
(October 2008)

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