Florida researchers working on breeding grapes to make Florida wine

Reporter: Jolena Esperto
Florida researchers are working on a grape that can take the humidity and heat of the Sunshine State. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Grapes grow best in colder climates but researchers are breeding different types of grapes in hopes of making wine in Florida.

A University of Florida researcher told WINK News he started working with new muscadine grape varieties a few years ago.

He is hoping he can create one that can handle the Florida weather, be disease resistant and taste great.

“Most grapes that people consider to be wine grapes can’t really grow in Florida,” said Sandy Zahorchaka, who owns a winery in Fort Myers.

“Those kinds of grapes can’t grow here which is why we import juices from other places,” Zahorchaka said.

Researchers are trying to make Florida wines a thing.

But most people don’t think muscadine graphes, native to Florida, make good wine or taste very good.

So what good are they?

“It’s a native plant, it’s adapted to our environment. So it’s resistant to most of the diseases that we have in Florida, you can get some it’s resistant to the insect pest and it grows well in our soils,” said FGCU professor John Griffiths.

The other issue with growing grapes in Florida is the heat and humidity,

“If we can grow them in Florida, they will be close to the common grape for red and white wine,” said UF Professor Ali Sarkhosh. “Muscadine grapes have more antioxidants than regular wine grapes do. They are better for you even though it is an acquired taste.”

Sarkhosh said he and other researchers at Florida A&M University, the University of Georgia and the University of California, Davis, need five more years of work before they’ll know if their muscadine grape varieties can thrive in Florida and make good wine.

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