From the shores of Lake Michigan, to the Upper Peninsula and beyond, Michigan’s wine industry continues to grow. With white, red, sweet, dry and sparkling varieties to try, you’re sure to find a wine that pleases your palate. As you explore all of Michigan’s wine varietals, you may wonder what differentiates this state’s wines from others. Here are a few aspects that make wine from our region unique:
This may come as no surprise, but the large bodies of water that surround our state have a huge influence on the climate. Nutrient rich, glacial soils that line the great lakes provide high quality agricultural environments. In fact, most of Michigan’s wineries are located within just 25 miles of Lake Michigan! The lake effect along the shoreline mitigates the air, protecting crops from early frosts, and preventing spring crops from blooming too early in the season. Come winter, the snow will insulate the vines, protecting them from the harsh winter temperatures so that they are healthy and ready to grow again come spring.
Marking the halfway point between the north pole and the equator, the 45th parallel plays a massive role and benchmark in winemaking. Grapes only grow between the 30th and 50th parallels, with anything further south being too warm, and anything above being too cold. Michigan is nestled nicely in this zone, sharing similar parallels to that of Burgundy, France, Willamette Valley, Oregon and Piedmont, Italy – all of which are renowned wine producing regions.
One unique aspect of Michigan wine production is a harvesting technique that yields a product known as ice wine. As the summer weather fades and the temperatures begin to cool, winemakers begin to prepare for a distinct and time-sensitive harvest. The grapes are harvested when the temperature dips just below 20 degrees fahrenheit. At this temperature, the water in the grapes is frozen, but not so much that the sugars in the fruit are affected. The result yields a more concentrated, highly sweet wine that can be either red or white, though white is more common.
The Michigan wine industry may still be lesser known than other regions, but it is certainly gaining traction. The commitment of the winemakers and their dedication to the craft is apparent in every wine you taste. As more wineries begin popping up around the state, word about our delicious wines will spread. So next time you’re sipping on your favorite crisp Riesling, or tasting a new merlot, you’ll know a bit more about why our region and the wines that come from it are so special.