By Colin Smith

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It may have burned up corn and soybean crops, but many Minnesota wineries are predicting a positive year in the face of historic drought.

The hot, dry conditions that defined summer brought just the right amount of stress to grapes, conducive to concentrated flavor, better chemistry and lower acidity.

Experts predict the result is a better selection of red wines than last year, when much of the Midwest experienced wet weather. Drier conditions could also expand the variety of reds, giving winemakers more latitude to experiment.

“It kinds of year really gives us a chance to showcase some things that we may not have been able to do in other years,” said Steve Zeller, co-owner of Parley Lake Winery in Waconia. “It’s exciting to be a part of.”

But there are some drought drawbacks. The grapes are smaller, leading to a lower yield.

Also, extended drought — hot and dry conditions that last for several years — can damage vines, decreasing their ability to survive a harsh winter.

“Younger vines that just went in the ground in the past few years are most vulnerable,” Zeller said. “Fortunately our wines are deeply rooted — 15, 20 feet down — and can make it through (this weather) just fine.”

This year’s wines from America’s heartland “will be nice, fruity and very approachable and soft on the palate,” said Diego Meraviglia, vice president and education director for the California-based North American Sommelier Association.


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