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Penn State Grape and Wine Team Boosts Industry

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — According to the National Association of American Wineries, Pennsylvania's grape and wine industry pours an estimated $4.8 billion into the state's economy through employment, wine sales, tourism, tax revenue and related avenues. That impact is expected to grow as the industry continues to branch out — the number of in-state wineries has increased from 64 in 2000 to 257 today, with more opening every year.

Supporting this blossoming field is the Penn State Grape and Wine Team, a group of viticulturists, plant pathologists, entomologists, enologists, sensory scientists and marketing specialists in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences and Penn State Extension. For the past decade, the team has been making those decisions easier through cutting-edge research and outreach that addresses grape and wine production and quality challenges, with particular emphasis on Pennsylvania and the eastern United States.

Though the state ranks fifth in the nation when it comes to growing grapes, it unfortunately does not produce enough wine grapes to meet increasing local demand, according to Michela Centinari, assistant professor of viticulture. That shortage requires some of the state's wineries to purchase grapes or grape juice from other states.

Crop losses and delay in fruit ripening caused by post-bud-burst freeze damage represent an economic challenge for wine-grape producers in Pennsylvania. Complicating the problem is that most frost protection methods, such as deploying wind machines or helicopters, are too expensive for small-size vineyards to purchase, Centinari said.

Collaborating with food scientists Ryan Elias and Helene Hopfer to examine whether a significant delay in bud burst and a shortening of the annual vine-growing cycle might negatively influence wine chemistry/quality and sensory perception in red and white wine-grape cultivars.

Support for the group's initiatives comes from the Pennsylvania Wine Marketing and Research Board, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture; the Specialty Crop Research Initiative of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture; the USDA Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program; the John and Timothy Crouch Program Support Endowment; and the New York Wine and Grape Foundation.

Penn State recognizes that there is a growing interest in winemaking. To that end, interested individuals, age 21 and older, can enroll in an online program that will be offered spring 2018 through Penn State Berks. Participants will learn the ins and outs of winemaking — the grape growing, the chemistry, the equipment used, the actual winemaking process and final wine product, and bottling/packaging. Information on the winemaking certificate can be found on the Penn State Berks website or by emailing Elaine Berish at emb1[at]


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