If you’re here, it means that you probably like grapes. But I bet you didn’t know these 8 interesting things about grape production in the USA.
After reading this article, you will know almost everything about growing grapes in North America.
What Grapes are Grown in the US?
Chardonnay is the most popular grape grown in the USA. This green-skinned grape variety is used in the production of white wine, and it accounts for over 20% of the US grape market. The Chardonnay vineyards in the US cover a total of 106,000 acres (43,000 ha).
Below, you can see the list of the top 15 most popular grape varieties in the US.
|Grape Variety||Wine Color||Production Size|
|1. Chardonnay||White||106,000 acres (43,000 ha)|
|2. Cabernet Sauvignon||Red||101,000 acres (41,000 ha)|
|3. Pinot Noir||Red||62,000 acres (25,000 ha)|
|4. Merlot||Red||52,000 acres (21,000 ha)|
|5. Zinfandel||Red||47,000 acres (19,000 ha)|
|6. Syrah||Red||22,200 acres (9,000 ha)|
|7. Pinot Gris||White||20,000 acres (8,000 ha)|
|8. French Colombard||White||20,000 acres (8,000 ha)|
|9. Sauvignon Blanc||White||15,000 acres (6,000 ha)|
|10. Rubired||Red||11,500 acres (4,600 ha)|
|11. Petite Sirah||Red||11,000 acres (4,500 ha)|
|12. Chenin Blanc||White||4,800 acres (1,900 ha)|
|13. Barbera||Red||4,800 acres (1,950 ha)|
|14. Ruby Cabernet||Red||4,700 acres (1,900 ha)|
|15. Muscat of Alexandria||White||4,600 acres (1,800 ha)|
1. Chardonnay: This grape variety originated in the Burgundy region of eastern France. Globally, it’s the most widely planted white grape variety. Chardonnay produces wines of a light golden hue, with notes of citrus, green apple, blossom, and almonds or oatmeal.
2. Cabernet Sauvignon: It’s one of the most popular grape variety in the world. It’s planted at over 842,000 acres (341,000 ha) worldwide. The taste of Cabernet Sauvignon depends on where it grows and how it’s made into red wine. Some Cabernet Sauvignon wines are sumptuous and fruity, others are savory and smoky.
3. Pinot Noir: Pinot Noir grapes are grown around the world, mostly in cooler climates. Pinot Noir is now used to make red wines around the world, as well as champagne, and sparkling white wines. In the US, this grape variety is planted mostly in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, the Carneros, Central Coast, and Sonoma Coast.
4. Merlot: It’s a dark blue–colored wine grape variety. Its name is thought to be a diminutive of merle, the French name for the blackbird. In 2015 Merlot was estimated to be the most grown at 640,000 acres (260,000 hectares) globally. This variety is the most popular in California, Washington, and New York.
5. Zinfandel: It found its way to the United States in the mid-19th century. The taste of the red wine depends on the ripeness of the grapes from which it is made. Wines from cooler areas predominate red berry fruit flavors, whereas blackberry, anise, and pepper notes are more common in wines made in warmer areas.
When is the Season for Grapes in the US?
In the US, the grape harvest season in most planting zones starts in mid-July and ends in mid-October. However, the longest grape season is in California, where it starts in May, and ends in January.
The season for grapes starts in May in Coachella Valley in southern California. This early ripening process is possible, because of the favorable climate. Grapevines thrive best in climates with long, warm summers and rainy winters. In other states, the season starts in July or August and usually lasts 1-2 months.
Below, you can see the annual cycle of the grapevine in the US:
1. March: Bud Burst
2. April: Leaf Grow, Flowering
3. May: Fruit set
4. June: Verasion
5. July: Fruit maturation
6. July-October: Harvest
7. October-November: Leaf drop
8. December-February: Dormancy
Grapes can grow in the USA from the 4th to the 10th planting zones thanks to few factors.
- Temperature: Grapes do best between 77 and 90 degrees F (25 to 32 °C). The lower the difference between temperatures at night and day, the better. The warmer temperature, the tastier the grapes are. The grapes don’t like too low temperatures in the winter. Grapevines may be injured by either spring or fall frosts.
- Light: Higher levels of light, either intensity or duration, result in increased yield and/or sugar content.
- Rain: For grapes, excess rainfall, as well as too little rainfall, is a problem. Most grapes thrive in regions where annual rainfall does not exceed 28 to 32 inches (700 to 800 mm).
- Humidity: Moderate humidity is great for grape growth. Very high and very low humidity can negatively influence grape development.
- Wind: Light breezes maintain air circulation around the grape, stopping the buildup of humidity and maintaining an even temperature within the canopy. However, high winds can cause serious damage to grapevines, especially to vines in the spring and early summer.
Where Do Grapes Grow in the USA?
Grapes in the US grow throughout the 4th to 10th planting zone. That means grapes can grow in any state (but not in every place) in the continental United States, and even in some parts of Hawaii, and southern Alaska. However, more than 85% of American grape production comes from California.
When it comes to Hawaii, grapes can grow only in the center of the Big Island. In Alaska, grapes can only be planted on 10% of the state’s area. It is also impossible to grow grapes in the northern parts of Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, Maine, and Vermont.
Below, you can see the table where in the US grapes grow, when is the harvesting time according to the state, and in which planting zones of a particular state they grow.
|State||Harvesting Time||Planting Zone|
|Alabama||Early July- Mid October||7b-8b|
|Alaska||Early July- Late August||4a-8b|
|Arizona||Early July- Late August||4b-10b|
|Arkansas||Mid July- Late August||6b-8a|
|California||Late May- Mid December||5a-10b|
|Colorado||Early August- Mid October||4a-7a|
|Connecticut||Late August- Late September||5b-7a|
|Delaware||Mid August- Late September||7a-7b|
|Florida||Mid July- Late September||8a-10b|
|Georgia||Early July- Early October||6a-9a|
|Hawaii||Early July- Late August||9a-10b|
|Idaho||Early July- Late September||4a-7b|
|Illinois||Mid July- Late September||5a-7a|
|Indiana||Late August- Late September||5b-6b|
|Iowa||Mid August- Mid September||4b-6a|
|Kansas||Mid July- Late September||5b-7a|
|Kentucky||Mid August-Mid October||6a-7a|
|Louisiana||Early July- Late August||8a-10a|
|Maine||Mid September- Late October||4a-5b|
|Maryland||Early July- Late September||5b-8a|
|Massachusetts||Late August- Late September||5a-7b|
|Michigan||Mid August- Mid September||4a-6b|
|Minnesota||Mid August- Late September||4a-4b|
|Mississippi||Early June- Late October||7b-9a|
|Missouri||Late August- Late September||5b-7a|
|Montana||Early July- Late August||4a-6a|
|Nebraska||Early July- Late August||4b-5b|
|Nevada||Early July- Late September||4a-10a|
|New Hampshire||Mid September- Late October||4a-6a|
|New Jersey||Mid August- Late September||6a-7b|
|New Mexico||Early July- Late August||4b-9a|
|New York||Mid August- Late October||4a-7b|
|North Carolina||Early July- Late September||5b-8b|
|North Dakota||Early July- Late August||4a-4b|
|Ohio||Late August- Mid October||5a-6a|
|Oklahoma||Early August-Mid September||6a-8a|
|Oregon||Early July- Late September||4b-9b|
|Pennsylvania||Mid August- Late September||5a-7b|
|Rhode Island||Late August- Late September||5b-7a|
|South Carolina||Early July- Late August||7a-9a|
|South Dakota||Early July- Late August||4a-5a|
|Tennessee||Mid July- Mid September||5b-8a|
|Texas||Early July- Late September||6a-9b|
|Utah||Early July- Late August||4a-9a|
|Vermont||Mid September- Late October||4a-5b|
|Virginia||Mid August- Late September||5a-8a|
|Washington||Early July- Late August||4a-9a|
|West Virginia||Late August- Late September||5a-7a|
|Wisconsin||Early July- Late August||4a-5b|
|Wyoming||Early July- Late August||4a-6a|
Which State is Famous for Grapes?
California is the most famous state for grape and wine production. It accounts for 85% of all wine production in the USA. In 2021, 5.76 million tons of grapes were grown in California. Other states that produce significant amounts of grapes are New York, Washington, Oregon, and Virginia.
Below, you can see the table with more details.
|State||The total amount of grapes (in tonnes)||The number of vineyards||The total surface of vineyards||% of the national grape production|
|1. California||5,760,000||3674||635,000 acres (257,000 ha)||85%|
|2. New York||187,000||1600||35,000 acres (14,200 ha)||3,3%|
|3. Washington||179,000||1000||55,000 acres (22,000 ha)||3,2%|
|4. Oregon||91,300||908||30,435 acres (12,300 ha)||1,6%|
|5. Virginia||10,000||300||4,000 (1600 ha)||0,2%|
The most popular places where vineyards are located are:
- Napa Valley (California): There are over 400 wineries in the Napa Valley, but the most popular one is probably Duckhorn Vineyards. Merlot Napa Valley Three Palms Vineyard 2014 is produced here, and it’s one of the best wines available. You can come here to taste many wine varieties, and the prices start from $40.
- Sonoma County (California): If you live in California, you have probably heard of Scribe Winery. It’s one of 250 vineyards in Sonoma County. This winery makes wine from Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon, so by reservation, you can the best wines from this place.
- Augusta (Missouri): Augusta is one hour away from St. Louis. Augusta Winery is a place worth visiting. They make Norton Estate Bottled, which is one of the best wines in Missouri.
- Snake River Valley (Idaho): This valley spans across Idaho and Oregon. Sawtooth Winery is a notable place. You can taste here many wines, including Roussanne, Tempranillo, Pinot Gris, and Syrah to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling
- Paso Robles (California): In this wine region of California, you can find more than 200 wineries. Cass Vineyard & Winery is known for producing Zinfandel. The tasting fee costs here $25.
Other renowned wine regions of the USA are:
- Texas Hill Country (Texas)
- Walla Walla Valley (Washington)
- Charlottesville (Virginia)
- Willamette Valley (Oregon)
- Finger Lakes (New York)
Does the US Export Grapes?
In 2021, the USA exported $781.6 million in grapes, making it the 5th largest exporter of grapes. The main destinations of export are Canada, Mexico, Japan, and South Korea. In comparison to 2020, the grape export from the USA decreased by $240 million.
The biggest American grape vineyards that play a role in the international trade of fresh grapes are Estee Vineyards Inc (New Jersey), Grapevine of Gadsden (Florida), and Hermannhof (Missouri).
However, the USA imports more grapes than it exports. For example, in 2020 the USA bought $1.36B worth of grapes. It makes the USA the biggest exporter of grapes in the world. The imported grapes came mainly from Chile ($509M), Peru ($447M), Mexico ($353M), and Brazil ($23M).
How Many Grapes are Consumed in the US?
An average American consumes 7,9 pounds (about 3,6 kg) of fresh grapes per year. The most consumed grape varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon ($2,575 mil/net sales), Chardonnay ($2,549 mil/net sales), and Pinot Gris ($1299 mil/net sales).
Here’s what the consumption of grapes per person looks like in the last 10 years (in pounds):
- 2012: 7,38
- 2013: 7,61
- 2014: 7,78
- 2015: 7,7
- 2016: 7,9
- 2017: 8,11
- 2018: 8,25
- 2019: 8,07
- 2020: 8,38
- 2021: 8,2
As you can see, grape consumption in the last 5 years is above average.
How Much Grapes are Produced in the US Each Year?
On average, the USA produces 7,327,000 tons of grapes per year. The biggest producer is California, which produces 85% of the total grape amount.
In the last years 10 years, 2013 was the most successful year when it comes to grape production in the US. In 2013, 8,631,000 tonnes were harvested. However, in 2020, and 2021 the production of grapes decreased from about 7,500,000 tonnes in the years 2015-2019 to about 6,000,000 tons.
How Did Grapes Get to America?
Some grape varieties, like Vitis labrusca, or Vitis aestivalis are native to America, and they grow in North America since the 11th century. There are also some varieties like Vinis vinifera that were brought by Europeans in the 15th century and mixed with native varieties.
Some people think that grapes were brought to North America by Europeans, but it’s not true. When the first Europeans got to America, they called it “vineland”, because of grape abundance.
The native American grape varieties are:
- Vitis labrusca
- Vitis aestivalis
- Vitis riparia
- Vitis berlandieri
However, the native varieties had lower sugar content, higher acid content, and slip skin, but could grow abundantly, because of resistance to hard weather conditions.
In the 15th century, Europeans brought Vinis vinifera variety. In the beginning, growing this variety was a failure, because the climate was too harsh. However, Europeans learned where to grow grapes, and they limited them to specific regions. With time, they were bringing more varieties that were crossed with native varieties.
pickyourown.org, forbes.com, wikipedia.org, winefolly.com, wine-grape-growing.com, statista.com, washingtonwine.org, agsci.oregonstate.edu, usawineratings.com, marketviewliquor.com, discovercaliforniawines.com, mensjournal.com, worldstopexports.com, oec.world, usawineratings.com, ipm.missouri.edu