Itasca Grape.

MN Impact: Wine Grape Breeding Leads to the First Dry-White Wine Grape for Northern Growers

November 17, 2017


Minnesota has seen rapid growth in its wine industry, particularly in the past decade. To continue this growth, vineyard owners are in constant need of new and better products and varieties to boost their industry and keep wine lovers interested.

What has been done

The University of Minnesota is recognized as having one of the top wine grape research programs in the country, with the goal of developing high-quality, cold-hardy, and diseaseresistant wine grape cultivars. The wine grape breeding program began in the mid-70s, and in 2000 an enology lab and research winery opened at the Horticultural Research Center. Today more than 12,000 experimental vines are cultivated on 12 acres. Thousands of seedlings are produced each year using a diverse genetic base that includes classic Vitis vinifera cultivars, quality French hybrids, and hardy, disease-resistant selections based on V. riparia, Minnesota's native grape.


In 2016, the University of Minnesota released Itasca, the first dry-white wine grape for northern growers. It will allow northern growers to offer white wines along the lines of sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio, the largest segment of the white wine industry, providing a huge boon to the industry.