MULLICA HILL, N.J. — According to several grape growers and wineries around the state, New Jersey has experienced one of the best grape seasons in history.
“The growing season in our region will likely be remembered as one of the great vintages of our lifetime,” Richard Heritage, marketing and sales director of William Heritage Winery in Mullica Hill, Gloucester County, said.
Heritage said that this season’s weather set up perfect conditions for a strong harvest.
“[The season was] very dry with a considerable amount of sunshine” Heritage said. “Many previous vintages had medium to large size rain events. In previous vintages we typically have to deal with multiple rain storms or long stretches of cloudy days.”
The best vintages occur when there is little to no rainfall during the ripening months of August through October, according to Heritage.
“Precipitation causes the vines to absorb water and the grapes to swell which dilutes flavors in the fruit,” he said. “Moisture in the vineyards also creates disease pressure which leads to the rotting of grapes and decreased fruit quality. The 2019 fall growing season brought us almost zero rainfall, which is something we have rarely seen in our 20+ years of grape growing.”
Such perfect conditions has led to a harvest never before experienced.
“We recorded record levels of ripeness in our fruit and harvested everything approximately two weeks earlier than years past,” Heritage said. “The fruit that was harvested and brought into the winery was pristine and contained a tremendous amount of flavor – a winemaker’s dream!”
According to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, many grapes are testing in the Brix 26 range, considered to be the top measurement for sweetness. Brix is the measure of sugar level in grapes and the perfect ripeness is considered between 25 and 27. The early summer rains combined with the dry period of August and September made for ideal grape growing conditions.
“New Jersey grape growers and wineries do an outstanding job with what they produce every year,” New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher said. “The vintners’ diligence and care for their vines, combined with wonderful growing conditions, made this one of the best years we’ve had for our industry.”
One of the country’s top wine producers with 1.5 million gallons produced in 2016, New Jersey is home to more than 50 licensed wineries in four Viticultural Regions: Outer Coastal Plain, Warren Hills, Central Delaware Valley, and the Cape May Peninsula.
“The New Jersey wine industry’s outstanding reputation will continue to be enhanced because of the grapes that have been produced this year,” Tom Cosentino, Garden State Wine Growers Association Executive Director, said. “We know our growers are excited about this year’s crop and that’s great news for New Jersey wine makers and consumers.”
New Jersey has almost 2,000 acres of farmland dedicated to grapevine cultivation. There are more than 40 grape varieties now growing in the state, from Pinot Noir and Riesling in the North, to Italian varieties such as Sangiovese and Barbera in the South. New Jersey grows a wide range of vinifera vines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to French American Hybrids.
Wine aficionados will have a chance to taste the first fruits of the bumper crop shortly after the fermentation process, according to Heritage.
“The first chance to taste wines from our 2019 vintage will be with the release of our Piquette Syrah,” Heritage said. “Piquette-style wines are typically released shortly after fermentation and are naturally sparkling. This will give us an early opportunity to sample a wine from this exceptional vintage.”
Most New Jersey wineries have direct to consumer shipping. For a list of New Jersey wineries and regular events that take place at wineries throughout the state, go to www.newjerseywines.com.