Don’t know much about Ohio’s wine industry? Fear not, for here — just in time for what’s left of this year’s Ohio Wines Month celebration — is a thumbnail of the industry’s past, present and future.
Ohio’s Winemaking History
- In the early 1800s, Cincinnati’s Nicholas Longworth — a pioneer of the American wine industry — built a thriving vineyard along the Ohio River in an attempt to steer the area’s citizens away from beer and whisky to wine, “the drink of moderation and gracious living.”
- In the mid-1800s, Europeans settled along the shores of Lake Erie and used American grape varieties to make sweet or semi-sweet wines in the style of their homelands.
- Since the 1960s, many Ohio winemakers have been producing more sophisticated European varietal wines, while some continue to make wines in the early American style.
Viticulture And Winemaking
- Since 2008, the number of Ohio wineries increased from 124 to more than 300 wineries located all over the state.
- Today, Ohio is one of the top 10 wine producing states with more than 1.2 million gallons produced annually.
- Roughly 90 percent of Ohio wineries are small family farms that make handcrafted, small-batch wines and produce less than 5,000 gallons — 2,100 cases — of wine per year.
- Wineries contribute to Ohio’s economy by creating jobs; paying property, business and sales taxes; and attracting tourism dollars to their local communities and to the state.
- Wineries are a microcosm of agriculture, growing the raw materials needed for producing the wine on-site and selling the final product.
- Ohio has a unique environment for grape growing and boasts five recognized appellations, or designated growing areas, that produce excellent wines from distinctive regional characteristics: Lake Erie, Ohio River Valley, Laramie Creek, Grand River Valley and Isle St. George (North Bass Island).
- There are many sites around Ohio where the micro-climate and soil conditions are optimal for growing high-quality grapes using cool-climate viticulture principles and techniques.
- In an effort build awareness of Ohio’s fine wines among its peers, industry opinion leaders and consumers, the Ohio Grape Industries Committee in 2007 created the Ohio Quality Wine designation. OQW is assigned to wines made from at least 90 percent Ohio-grown grapes that also achieve at least 15 of 20 points on a sensory evaluation and pass a chemical analysis.
- Some of Ohio’s wines have earned national and international recognition by winning top awards at the San Francisco International Wine Competition, L.A. County Fair Wine Competition, Taster’s Guild International Wine Competition, the Pacific Rim International Wine Competition and others.
- Wineries, researchers and the state are investing in a cooperative, industrywide effort to identify and increase quality grape and wine production through research and extension programs.