Ohio is a mid-western state of the US located south of the Great Lakes, between Pennsylvania to the east and Indiana to the west. Traditionally home to the production of grape juice and jelly, Ohio is becoming increasingly known for its wine industry and is now among the top 10 wine-producing states in the country (although its output comes nowhere near that of California, which is responsible for around 90 percent of US wine). Both vinifera and hybrid grape varieties are found in Ohio's vineyards, including Riesling, Chardonnay and Vidal.
The state covers close to 45,000 square miles (116,000 sq km) of plateaus and plains, with its northern edge defined by the shores of Lake Erie. Most of the viticultural land in Ohio lies along the edges of the lake, where the temperatures are moderated by the insulating capacities of the water. Ohio's sub-AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) of Isle St. George and Grand River Valley lie along the edges of the lake, as does the Lake Erie AVA, which also encompasses land in Pennsylvania and New York. The Ohio River Valley AVA lies along the southern border of the state, spilling into Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia. Ohio's fifth AVA, Loramie Creek, is currently redundant, having no wineries at all within its boundaries.
Ohio's wine history began in the early 19th Century, when extensive vine plantings were made in the Ohio River Valley, particularly of the Catawba grape variety that became the symbol of Ohio wine. Catawba is a resilient vine, able to withstand the bitter freezes that characterize the winters of Ohio and its neighboring states. These early wines stood out from examples produced elsewhere in America as a result of their being made in a more-Germanic style: light, fresh and slightly sweet. Perhaps surprisingly by today's standards, that description applied to both white and red wines. By the 1860s, Ohio was the most prolific wine-producing state in America.
The downturn, when it came, was due to a combination of conflict and Prohibition. The 1861-65 Civil War drew valuable labor out of the vineyards and onto the battlefields, leaving many thousands of acres untended. Fungal diseases such as downy mildew and black rot – a perennial threat in damp climates – soon caused extensive damage to the vines, which then had little time to recover before Prohibition 'dried out' the state. When Prohibition ended in 1933, very little was left. The fungal diseases were, however, largely concentrated in the south of Ohio, which receives higher levels of rainfall, and the vineyards of the north, particularly those planted by Central European immigrants on the Lake Erie islands, fared better. Here, the spread of disease was interrupted by the waters of the lake, and some vines survived.
In the 1960s, vine plantings began again in Ohio. Franco-American hybrids had been developed which were not only winter-hardy but also offered good yields. After a period when winemakers struggled to decide between quality and quantity (there were excessive yields in the 1990s), Ohio's wine industry once again found its feet.
Ohio Beers and Spirits
According to the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, the state ranks fifth in the USA in terms of craft beer production, and around 15,000 jobs are supported by the craft brewing industry. As in other parts of the USA, a high number of small operations have opened within the last five to ten years. As of 2018 there were well over 200 breweries in the state with several dozen more being planned.
There are nearly 30 distilleries in the state. Bourbon Whiskey counts among the most prominent products. Other styles of whiskey along with gin and vodka are also distilled in Ohio.