North Dakota Wine

Wine-Searcher editorial  ·  Last updated 09-Nov-2018
The flag of North Dakota

North Dakota is a state in the center of the USA's northern border with Canada. As of 2012, there were no American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in North Dakota other than the generic state appellation.

The state covers just over 70,000 square miles (180,000 sq km) and stretches between the latitudes of 45°N and 49°N. Despite this latitude – shared with some of the best wine-growing regions in Europe – North Dakota has a tiny wine industry, based on fruit wines and cold-hardy hybrid varieties such as Frontenac, La Crescent and Saint-Croix. There are around 14 wineries in the state's Grape and Wine Association, with a similar number of vineyard businesses.

The continental climate in North Dakota is prone to climatic extremes that make most of its mesoclimates unsuitable for large-scale viticulture. The wine industry here is growing, however – albeit slowly – and in 2011, there were nine wineries and 40 vineyards spread across the state, with a slight concentration south-west of the city of Fargo.

Wild grapes were found growing along North Dakota's riversides by early settlers, but the climate in the state and the adoption of prohibition at the time of statehood in 1889 mean that the wine history of North Dakota stretches back only to the 1990s. Although North Dakota repealed its ban on alcohol in 1933 when Prohibition nationwide ended, restrictive local laws surrounding winemaking since have further contributed to the dearth of a winemaking tradition here. The state's first bonded winery was established as recently as 2002.

Despite these challenges, North Dakota has embraced its small, hobbyist wine industry, and in 2006, the North Dakota Grape Growers Association was set up to promote viticulture in the state. There is also a breeding program at North Dakota State University focused on the development of cold-hardy grape varieties to further diversify wine output.

Beer, Cider and Spirits

Reflecting the sparse population of the state, the other sectors of North Dakota's beverage industry are also small in terms of producer numbers and volume. It is also home to a handful of cideries, mead producers and distilleries. They join together with the wine businesses as members of the North Dakota Beer and Wine Trail.

There are around a dozen breweries, which as of 2012 accounted for over 6000 jobs and added $200 million to the state's economy. Beermakers are helped by the enthusiam of North Dakota drinkers, who according to USA Today lead the nation in terms of per-capita beer drinking, passing 40 gallons per year.

North Dakota Wines
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