Wine in New York

Wines are produced in New York.

In the US, California is justly famous for its wines. So famous, in fact, that it comes as a surprise to some to find out that New York has long been a serious competitor in terms of quality.

Winemaking in the New York region goes back centuries. Ten thousand years ago Ice Age glaciers carved out an ideal region for growing wine grapes. Then, when the glaciers melted, the waters' effect on the air combined with the cliffs to funnel maritime breezes through the region to create the perfect climate.

Dutch settlers took advantage of this 350 years ago and planted vines on a small island later called Manhattan. The Dutch were the first to plant vinifera (the common European species that forms the basis of almost all French wine), but found it wouldn't survive in this colder region. Eventually growers learned that vinifera could be grafted onto native rootstock and production began in earnest.

Hudson Valley

Further north in the Hudson Valley and Finger Lakes areas the first commercial wineries planted vinifera in the 1860s and began an industry that thrives today. Twenty-five years ago there were 19 wineries, now over 150.

As one example, here on 500 acres 28 wineries grow 1,280 tons of Seyval, Chardonnay and on another 10,000 acres during a 200 day growing season come 61,500 tons Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and others from 58 wineries.

Among these is the famous Benmarl, America's oldest winery which produces Seyval Blanc and Baco Noir.

Lake Erie

Arctic air masses flow toward the Lake Erie region, but get water conditioned by the Great Lakes and trapped by the Allegheny Plateau to buffer the vines from extreme temperatures.

The largest area outside California (if the Pennsylvania acreage is included), with 20,000 acres under cultivation the grape production is a whopping 121,697 tons. From the Labrusca varieties of Concord and Niagara are produced grape juice, Seyval and Riesling.

Although 90% of the region's Concord grapes are used for grape juice, there are seven wineries that grow European varieties for vinification.

Long Island

Known as New York's 'Bordeaux' region, Long Island is the newest and fastest growing wine area. About 160km (100 mi) east of New York City the island separates into the North Fork and the South Fork separated by the Great Peconic Bay. The Bay and the Atlantic Ocean moderate the temperature, creating favorable conditions for Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Though small at only 1,600 acres and 4,800 tons of grape production, the 24 wineries located here are producing award winning vintages.

New York State

In 2004, considered a light year, over $400 million of New York wine was sold, with an economic impact on New York State of $3.3 billion. The total area under cultivation is second only to California and produces not only Labrusca, but Baco, Aurora, Riesling, Chardonnay.

And now that regulations have changed to permit shipping of New York wine out of state to be sold by direct mail, that number will undoubtedly grow significantly. And thanks, not only to changing laws, but to the continual improvements made by New York's dedicated vintners.