Thursday, March 26, 2009

Guest Blogger Megan Presnall on Illinois Wine

Let's welcome Megan Presnall, Director, External Relations for the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association! If you're like me, you probably don't think about or drink American wines other than California, Washington, Oregon, and maybe New York. But every state in the U.S. now has a legally recognized winery, so take some time to learn about and taste what our home state has to offer. Here's Megan!

The Illinois wine industry has exploded in recent years, growing from just 12 wineries in 1997 to more than 72 today. During this time, the acreage devoted to grape production has grown at a tremendous rate, and today Illinois is consistently among the top 12 wine-producing states. But while the industry’s recent growth has been phenomenal, Illinois also enjoys a rich winemaking tradition that dates back to the 1700s when French settlers in La Ville de Maillet (what is now Peoria) began bringing the winemaking expertise of their homeland to Illinois. The village now features a wine press and an underground wine vault.

Today the Illinois wine industry creates a direct economic impact of more than $253 million annually. The Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association predict continued growth in the coming years as more visitors discover the genuine culture of Illinois Wine Country. Locally crafted wines are growing in popularity at both the state and national level. IGGVA is tapping into this passion by pairing wines with the homegrown sights and sounds of Illinois. The focus in the upcoming season is to invite a new social viewpoint into these efforts.

Illinois Wines have won acclaim in state, national and international competitions. From friendly vintners and affordable prices to unique varietals and award-winning wines, the more than 72 wineries and 450 vineyards across Illinois offer an enjoyable, close-to-home getaway. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a let-down-your-hair road trip with the girls, a genuine Illinois Wine experience is never more than a few hours away. The experiences to visitors at individual sites and along the Illinois Wine trails offered are diverse; ranging from the quaint bed and breakfast vineyard in the rolling hills of Southern Illinois to larger wineries offering classes, tours, tastings and even on-site chefs.

Illinois winemakers use different grape varieties to produce a diversity of high-quality wines. The top six grape varietals grown in the state cover more than 75 percent of the state’s total grape acreage. Five of these grapes—Chambourcin, Seyval, Vignoles, Chardonel and Vidal Blanc—are “French Hybrids,” developed by crossing French grapes, such as the Chardonnay often grown in France and California, with native American vines. This cross-pollination results in grapes that produce excellent wine, but that are less susceptible to the effects of extreme cold—making them ideal for the Midwest’s unpredictable weather. The other grape in the top six, Norton, originates from native American vines.

The Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association (IGGVA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to developing the viticulture and enology interests of Illinois through information exchange and cooperation among Illinois grape producers and vintners. For more information on Illinois Wine, please visit If you are on Twitter, you can also keep up-to-date by following