Ontario grape growers have vintage year



LONDON, ON - These are good times in Ontario's vineyards.

A combination of a hot and dry summer has resulted in a record harvest of high quality grapes in Ontario in a year with a global wine shortage looming.

"It has been a great year," said Bill George, chair of Grape Growers of Ontario. "I've been growing grapes since 1988 and it is probably the best year we've had in the vineyard."

Ontario grape growers harvested 65,800 tonnes of grapes this year, valued at more than $88.3 million. That's up from last year's 64,500-tonne crop that had a $78.7-million farm gate value.

Commercial wine making accounts for 90% of the Ontario grape crop.

Grape growers are expecting demand for Ontario wine to soar after wine regions in Europe have experienced a disastrous year.

ail storms pummeled vineyards in Portugal, destroying nearly 80% of the harvest. There have also been grape production problems in Argentina, Spain, New Zealand and Hungary.

Ontario grape growers had their own sleepless nights early in the spring when a heavy frost ravaged much of Ontario's tender fruit crops and wiped out most apple production.

Grape Growers of Ontario chief executive Debbie Zimmerman said grape growers were able to escape the damage because of $15 million in investments in technology the last couple of years - early warning systems and wind machines.

With 17,000 acres of vineyards, southern Ontario has Canada's largest grape growing region.

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