University of Minnesota produces new wine grape

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The University of Minnesota is releasing a new grape, the Clarion grape. At the University’s Horticultural Research Center, where the U of M’s Grape Breeding and Enology program is based, researchers discovered that Clarion doesn’t just produce excellent vines: its grapes continually produce high-quality, dry white wines with fruity attributes of citrus, pear, melon, apricot and chamomile. Some evaluators describe the wine as being similar to southern hemisphere Sauvignon blanc.

With a less vigorous growth habit than other cold-hardy varieties, Clarion is easier for growers to manage in the vineyard. Its grape bunches are loose, which can contribute to reduced disease and insect pressure for conventional production methods. Clarion has known resistance to downy mildew, a major pest in the Eastern U.S. due to humid and rainy summers.

U of M researchers have been growing Clarion grape vines under the research name MN1220 for more than 20 years to test the hybrid vines’ cold-hardiness, disease resistance and other attributes for commercial and backyard cultivation. Test plots have been in evaluation for over 10 years with nurseries and university and Extension partners across the U.S.