An Iowa State University extension expert who works with the wine industry in the state believes the new growth in the industry will come in infrastructure and equipment. Viticulturist Mike White says the number of grape acres may not increase, but the way the current acres are used likely will.
White says the industry is about 10 years old, and while there were a lot of novices a decade ago, the industry is starting to mature. He says people are investing now in infrastructure and equipment and he sees the number of vineyards maybe declining, while he expects the number of wineries to increase.
Part of the maturation of the industry has taken owners from being hobbyists to professionals who he says will invest in more equipment to speed the process. White says right now there are six mechanical grape harvesters, they are like big combines. He says it takes an hour to harvest an acre of grapes with the machine, while it takes 75 hours to do it by hand. So he sees more people using the mechanical harvesters and mechanical pruners.
The decade of growth saw the industry build from 13 wineries and two vineyards to 85-state licensed wineries and 413 vineyards. White expects the industry to develop even more resources to use the grapes that are grown in the state. He says he envisions a juice processing facility that will store large quantities of juice, so the wineries can use the juice all through the year.
White has been surprised by the way the wine industry has taken off. White says he had no idea, nor did most people, that the wine industry would take off like it has. He says it has been good for the state’s economy and he expects the number of wineries to increase, as he says they are actually “event centers.”
White says 30 to 50% of the income from a typical winery will come from something other than wine, such as catering or hosting special events.