How the cold winter could affect your favorite bottle of wine - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

How the cold winter could affect your favorite bottle of wine

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The brutal winter is having an impact on one of Vermont's newer agricultural industries. Some wine vineyards are dealing with damage they haven't had in a decade.

"This is the vine that has the least resistance to the cold, it's pure European parentage so it's got less resistance to the cold and even most of these beautiful looking buds are probably dead," said Ken Albert from Shelburne Vineyard.

Albert planted Riesling grape vines in his best spot. It's about as close to Lake Champlain as you can get without being on the beach.

"We like to think this part of Vermont is the banana belt. We're close to Lake Champlain, which of course Lake Champlain froze over this year which is hasn't done since 2007. So whatever protection it has, sort of moderates the temperature by 5 degrees or so, we lose that and that's what happened," said Albert.

Albert said they started growing vines in 1998. The first harvest came in 2000 and they've had a couple of bad winters, but this is one of the worst.

Albert took WCAX News inside the vineyard to see what he calls "an autopsy on the vines." He said that a healthy bud should have three green dots inside. The one in the middle yields the fruit.

"You can see in this bud, it's all brown. Of the two varieties that aren't hardy, the first one was Riesling and this is Vidal and ironically this is the grape we use to make ice wine," said Albert.

While you may think that should be hardy, it's not and has had a tough time surviving this winter. Grapes last on the vine after the leaves are gone well into December. Then they're harvested.

Reporter Julie Kelley: So, in December did you get grapes off this?

Albert: Oh yeah, we got tons of grapes. Next December we won't be out there probably.

Again, when he cuts the bud open it is brown inside.

"We didn't bet the farm on Riesling," said Albert.

Or on the Vidal, which uses a type of grape that covers 90 percent of his vineyard, a hardy one.

When Albert cuts the bud open on a Marquette, he often sees just what he likes; you could say it's the fruit of his labor.

"You can see in there it's distinctly green," said Albert.

Back in the vineyard, those hardy vines that make a nice red wine have already been pruned.

"Each one of these little buds here will grow a long cane and the fruit will all be here and all the leaves are the engine of ripeness for the fruit down here," said Albert.

This means when you come to visit Shelburne Vineyard next year, you'll most likely be enjoying a nice red instead of a Vermont Riesling.

Despite the troubles with the Riesling and Ice Wine, business is actually growing for Shelburne Vineyard. They added land in Charlotte to their production and expect to bottle about 50,000 bottles of wine. That's up from more than 30,000 last year.

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