Late Spring Holding Back Bud Break in Michigan
Several recent media reports have focused on how the winter we are all trying to forget has affected the Michigan Merlot crop. There’s only about one hundred acres of Merlot in Michigan, so it’s hard to understand why there’s so much interest in a relatively minor grape.
The two main wine grapes in Michigan are Concord and Riesling. A report this week from mlive (see below) indicates that Concord came through the winter in pretty good shape. However, Niagara, which is also a labrusca grape, did not fare as well. Niagara ripens earlier than Concord and is less cold hardy, according to Bruce Bordelon of Purdue University.
The Michigan State University Southwest Michigan Fruit Report for April 29th stated, “Vinifera wine grapes are showing a lot of damage from the winter with the more winter-tender reds showing more damage than white fruited varieties that are generally more winter-hardy.”
Also of concern is how a cold spring will effect this growing season in Michigan. Michigan is largely dependent on European wine grapes which require a certain amount of sunlight and heat to fully ripen.
Midwest Wine Press will publish a more complete report later this month, however we’re hearing that bud break is weeks away in Northern and Southern Michigan. The northern portion of Lake Michigan is still frozen and the ten day forecast for Traverse City does not have high temperature getting out of the mid 50’s.
Generally, Riesling takes over 2,000 growing degree days to ripen. (A growing degree day is the average daily temperature minus 50 degrees F.) There obviously have not been any growing degrees yet around Traverse City.
In places with relatively short, intense growing seasons, the ideal situation is to have warm, sunny weather as soon as the danger of frost passes. The right time for the growing season to begin in the upper Midwest is right about now, but that’s not happening this year. A hot, dry summer is still in the cards, but the Great Lakes need to warm up soon.
We will have more news about the growing season in the entire Midwest in coming weeks.
See related story: Winter Takes Toll on Michigan Wine