Coming Fall 2017

The Growth of Vineyards in Georgia

If you have paid any attention to changes in the Georgia horticultural scene, then you know that in the last few decades there has been a resurgence in Georgia wineries and vineyards. But it should be noted that Georgia is no stranger to vineyards.

Since the founding of Georgia by Gen. James Oglethorpe, our soil has played a part in the wine industry. However, Georgia’s first introduction of European wine grapes did not fare so well, and the vines could not be cultivated due to the mysterious New World’s diseases and insects. 

Thankfully, more viticulturists pursued the craft and by the late 19th century, Georgia was an important winegrowing region in the US, ranking sixth in production among US states. Today, Georgia is home to approximately 500 acres of bunch grapes, and is the national leader in the production of wine from the muscadine grape.

So, what is it about the Georgia soil and location that have made it appealing to vintners and viticulturists alike? As Georgians, we all know how great our state is. But it is our northern regions that make the Peach State welcoming to grapes, too. Thanks to the ideal mountain terrain, elevation, soil – ours is comparable to that found in regions of Italy -and drainage, Georgia winemakers are able to produce varietals that rival those recognized by the world’s most renowned vineyards.

 For many Georgians, finding something good about the abundance of red clay can be difficult. However, if one is interested in producing wine, then that red clay is perfect because it holds in just the right amount of moisture between rains. As vineyards are planted using soils that have either sandy clay loam or a loamy clay surface soil that 8 to 14 inches deep, our red clay has become rather useful.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing the Georgia vintner is Pierce’s disease (PD). However, for those vineyards located in the foothills of the Southern Blue Ridge in north Georgia, there is less risk of the disease thanks to the higher elevation and cooler temperatures. It is also noteworthy that while some grape varieties struggle in Georgia, the muscadine has long been planted due to its natural resistance to PD and because the muscadine produces wines with a distinctive aroma and flavor. Other grape varieties, which have been introduced successfully, include Blanc du Bois, Lenoir, Norton, French-American hybrid Villard Blanc and Lomanto, a T.V. Munson hybrid and other hybrid grape varieties.

So, why is the southeast becoming a mecca for vintners? Simply put, because our soil, climate, and location make us the perfect place for producing full-bodied wines perfect for any occasion. So, come check out the vineyards of Georgia! Bear Claw Vineyards will open to the public in 2017, we look forward to meeting you and introducing you to our amazing wines in the future. 

Michelle Swim
Michelle Swim