Iowa wine industry growing

Iowa wine industry growing

What, Midwesterners are learning to appreciate wine more? According to the Chicago Tribune, the state is in the midst of a "winemaking boom." Ten years ago, the paper says, Iowa had only eight or 10 licensed wineries. Now, that number is fast-approaching 100. The popularity of winemaking has even reached the state's northwest corner, the focus of the article.

There are a number of reasons for the expansion the article says.

The paper talks with Viticulturist Mike White of the Iowa State University Extension, who explains:

  • Americans' interest in wine skyrocketed after a Nov. 17, 1997, "60 Minutes"' broadcast about how the French routinely feast on rich food with apparent impunity with respect to its poor health effects, which are allegedly offset by their habit of washing it down with wine.
  • The development of new varieties of high quality, cold-hardy, disease-resistant grapes -- Cabernets, Merlots, American-French grape hybrids -- by the University of Minnesota and Cornell University, makes it possible to grow good wine grapes in Iowa.
  • A number of adults are returning to family farms in Iowa., many after living in California. Now they have land, some money and a taste for wines.
  • The rising popularity of hobby winemaking; wine- and beer-making are second only to gardening among America's most popular hobbies.
  • Wine consumption is growing all over the world; a 2.1 percent increase is forecast for the United States next year.
  • Iowa's lenient tax laws. Wine consumed at the wineries is not taxed. The tax is just $1.75 per gallon on retail wine sales.

The northeast portion of the state -- along with the parts of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota that lie on or near the Mississippi River -- have been gaining attention for a while now due to the area's recent designation as its own distinct viticultural region: the Upper Mississippi Valley American Viticultural Area.

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