SUNLIGHT and high temperatures are needed to completely ripen grapes, so plant vines on a south-facing slope, or on the south side of a building or windbreak. They are best adapted to the southern half or two-thirds of Minnesota. Avoid sites with standing water and poor drainage, and add fertilizer based on soil test recommendations. Grapes require annual pruning. Hardy varieties are often pruned to four main canes with 40-60 buds per vine for table varieties, and 20-30 buds for wine varieties. Tender varieties requiring winter protection are pruned to a single trunk that can be removed from the trellis and protected on the ground over the winter.
Frontenac* 1997 hardy, disease resistant grape for red wine
Edelweiss *1977 white, seeded, table grape, needs winter protection, sometimes used for wine
Swenson Red* 1977 red, seeded, table grape, needs winter protection, susceptible to downy mildew
Bluebell* 1944 early maturing, blue, seeded, table grape, delightful flavor
Blue Jay 1944
Red Amber 1944
*=varieties available from retail nurseries, those without are heirloom varieties with limited availability
bold type = joint release with Elmer Swenson
'Edelweiss' is a large clustered, white, seeded variety with good fresh eating quality. It should be picked early, in late August or early September in southern Minnesota. Winter mulching is recommended.
'Swenson Red' produces large, crisp, high quality table grapes. The vines need winter protection. Like 'Edelweiss,' this is a joint introduction from grape breeder Elmer Swenson and the U of M.
'Frontenac', the newest introduction from the U of M, was bred specifically for red wine production and is an important addition to Minnesota's expanding wine industry. It is the most hardy red-wine variety in Minnesota. The grapes have a high sugar and acid content at harvest, making a red wine that echoes the flavors of cherries and plums.