CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY, N.Y. - This summer's drought was tough on a lot of farmers in Western New York, but the hot, dry weather was actually great for grape growers.
Luke Haggerty with the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program said normally growers are fighting too much water. He says there's a saying in the industry: grapes don't like wet feet. Excess rain prevents the vines from getting the nutrients they need and can bring on disease. Grapes are a perennial crop with a deep root system, so they can handle a lack of rain.
Hot, dry weather leads to smaller fruit, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
"Of course when you shrink the berry size, it will affect the overall yield, but what that does is it increases quality. The amount of flavors and sugar, they are all condensed so you get a really flavorful berry," said Haggerty.
"A lot of the flavors and the good stuff in the wine comes out of the skin. And if you have a lot of skin and a little bit of pulp, that helps with the quality," said Dr. Terry Bates, Senior Research Associate with Cornell University.
A drier season means less water in the grapes which in turn leads to higher sugar content and lower acidity in both wine and juice grapes.
The Lake Erie region has 33,000 acres of vineyards across five counties in both New York and Pennsylvania.