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U Of M Releases New Grape For White Wine

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The University of Minnesota has released a new cold-hardy grape that will be used in making white wines.

Officials said Monday the wine grape has been named "Itasca," and it will be used in making dry white wines. It's the most recent in grapes released by the university -- and the first in 10 years -- that's led to a growing wine industry in Minnesota and other northern climates. The grape has a lower acidity and high sugar levels.

Research on the grape began in 2002, when the cross for the grape was created from two parent grapes. By 2009, researchers began experimenting with making it into wine.

Breeder Matt Clark says it's been a process that's taken a lot of patience.

"We've given it a name, applied for a patent and have licensed nurseries who are propagating this for us so that growers can start planting it," he said.

Itasca grapes will produce a wine that is light yellow to strain in color and has smells of pear, quince, violet, melon, minerals and even a light touch of honey, researchers say.

"It's a huge deal," Clark said. "Itasca is going to change the landscape for grape growers and wine growers across the state and across the region."

It now joins four other grapes that have been developed by the U of M, including Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, La Crescent and Marquette. Cultivators also succeeded in growing a grape that's highly resistant to disease and pests. That means less pesticides and insecticides for growers and, ultimately, a better outcome for the environment.

After the long process of getting the grape to this point, wine lovers will have to be patient. Itasca won't be available on store shelves for at least five years.

"Those vines have to grow, get trained on the trellis and won't fruit for maybe three or four years," Clark said.

The U of M has 3,260 acres of cold-hardy grapes being developed for wine.

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