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Hunting The Wild Grape

on 22/11/10 at 9:57 am


Wild grapes

Wine-grape expert Bill Shoemaker has taken to the roadsides of Illinois in search of wild grapes that he hopes can be crossed with their more refined cousins to create a tasty and hardy crop.

The University of Illinois researcher has begun a years-long project that includes plenty of wild grape tasting — much of it not pleasant.

“After a while you get sore tongues because you taste a lot of acidic grapes,” Shoemaker said. “You spit out an awful lot of grapes you don’t like.”

What those wild grapes lack in taste, though, they make up in the ability to thrive in cold Midwestern winters and survive plant diseases that can decimate wine grapes with better pedigrees bred to grow elsewhere.

Shoemaker hopes to someday breed better grapes and offer more opportunities for the growing Midwestern wine industry.

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