2012 promises to be an exceptional vintage for wine in southwest Michigan

Expect to see some spectacular wines from this year’s Michigan wine grape harvest.

Although 2012 will long be remembered by Michigan’s growers as a challenging year for producing fruit, wine grapes were a bright spot in a dismal year for fruit production. After a mild winter, southwest Michigan experienced an unseasonably warm March with several weeks of temperatures in the 80s, followed by more normal temperatures and a series of frosts in April. Bud break was accelerated for vines on some sites, resulting in yield losses (10 to 20 percent) for some early varieties. Most wine grapes, however, escaped the freezes, and those that made it to harvest were of excellent quality.

Insect and disease pressure was generally light. Phomopsis and powdery mildew were the main disease issues this year with a few bunch rots developing at the end of the season. Botrytis, a fungal disease that can ruin the quality of grapes with a bunch rot, produced noble rot this year instead, transforming grapes into delectable raisins to be made into late harvest dessert wines.

With a particularly long growing season, a dry summer, and good weather for harvest, growers were able to pick grapes at the optimum time for flavor, acidity, pH and sugars. Reds have excellent color, according to Michigan State University Extension.

“We should see some extremely high quality wines made from this year’s vintage,” one winery owner commented. “There is no downside to this year’s wine grapes.” Except perhaps with this level of quality, we wish there were even more grapes to harvest. Expect to see some spectacular wines from 2012’s southwest Michigan harvest.