Crop Report From Wis.’ Largest Winery
Wollersheim Winery in Wisconsin is one of the best hybrid winemakers in the Midwest which is why we write about them so often in Midwest Wine Press. (Like all the best Midwest wines, Wollersheim wine is just good wine, plain and simple.)
For the estate grown wines, Wollersheim’s main grape is Foch with over 20 acres under cultivation.
Growing Foch in Wisconsin is not for the faint of heart. During the spring freeze of ’12, Wollersheim’s Foch took a substantial hit. Foch buds out earlier than most wine grapes and is therefore susceptible to spring frost.
This winter has also been tough on Foch. Wollersheim reported today that they expect a 40% to 50% reduction in crop load this year. (While the Winery’s report did not specifically mention Foch, the other primary grapes that Wollersheim grows in Prairie du Sac are St. Pepin and LaCrosse.)
While losing grapes is never a good thing, the news could have been worse. Foch’s reported cold tolerance limit is -15F to -20F. In nearby Madison, WI, the temperature dropped to -15F or below four times this winter. (The low temperature was below zero 25 of 62 days in Madison between January 1 and March 3, 2014. Wisconsinites can handle tough winters, but that’s serious cold.)
During a 2013 interview, Wollersheim winemaker Philippe Coquard told Midwest Wine Press that he might consider planting Marquette, but he has concerns about late ripening with Marquette. However, Marquette, with its Vitis Riparia wild grape ancestry, can handle temperatures of -20F to -30F.
One of the questions that will certainly result from this winter concerns the suitability of moderately cold tolerant cultivars, like Foch, in the upper Midwest.