Wine Grape Growing: Sustainable New Jersey Agriculture
Wine grape growing meets criteria for the term "sustainable agriculture" with efficient use of natural resources and contribution to farm economic viability. Wine grapes generally require fewer inputs of nitrogen fertilizer and irrigation, and result in less soil compaction and erosion compared with annual crops. New Jersey can consistently produce among the highest quality wine grapes in the East. There is an expanding market for wine grapes as local wineries introduce consumers to high quality NJ wines. New Jersey wine consumers are well-educated, above average household income, culturally diverse, sophisticated, and travelled, making our state a globally significant wine market.
Potential Industry Growth & Optimum Site Selection
New Jersey has 1,043 acres planted in wine grapes supplying 43 wineries. There are three designated American Viticulture Areas: Warren Hills, encompassing 189,225 total acres; Central Delaware Valley, 95,162 total acres; and Outer Coastal Plain consisting of 2,109,073 total acres. Industry growth hinges on discovering which parcels are most suited for wine grape growing.
Site selection is the most important decision in growing wine grapes. Much of the unique character of wines from a specific locality is the result of the interaction of climate, microclimate, soil composition, soil character, drainage, sunlight exposure, slope, aspect, and elevation. Stated differently, you can change grape cultivar, pruning methods, trellising, winemaking skill, and equipment technology; but you can’t change your site. Pursuing an understanding of the mysterious concept goût de terroir, so important to the identification of ideal grape growing sites, is fundamental to the realization of viticulture potential.
Dr. Dan Ward has completed research modeling NJ land suitability for growing wine grapes. He has studied each of the three American Viticulture Areas and each county. Parameters include frost-free days, growing degree-days, soil drainage, slope, and aspect. These are the first detailed online GIS-based maps of the climate and soils relevant to viticulture in New Jersey. His research, which can be found on the interactive site "Rutgers University NJ Wine Grape Resource Center," sheds light on the enormous wine grape growing potential in our state.
Rutgers NJAES Resources
Rutgers University NJ Wine Grape Resource Center
Commercial Grape Pest Control Recommendations for NJ, 2012
NJ Climate & Weather Network
Rutgers NJAES Soil Lab
Grower Resources: Considerations for Vineyard Site Assessment A checklist for prospective wine growers.
Sunlight into Wine. R. Smart & M. Robinson. Winetitles, 1991. Quality assurance in vineyards, canopy management and economics, improvement of canopy microclimates, importance of wine grape canopies, and construction of trellis systems.