Illinois wine refers to any wine that is made from grapes grown in the U.S. state of Illinois. As of 2004, 63 Illinois wineries, working with 193 grape arbors, produce 451,079 U.S. gallons (1.7 million liters) of wine annually with an annual total positive economic impact estimated at $20 million.
Grapes have been growing in Illinois for over 150 years. One of the first areas to begin growing grapes was on the banks of the Mississippi in Nauvoo. The oldest recorded Concord vineyard in Illinois was planted in 1851 and is located in Nauvoo State Park; the vineyard is still producing fruit. By 1880 there were over 600 acre sqkm 1 of grapes and 40 wine cellars in Nauvoo, and the town was known for its fine wines.
The oldest surviving family-owned vineyard in Illinois is also located in Nauvoo. Emile Baxter came to Nauvoo in 1855 to join an Icarian commune and remained after the breakup of the group. Learning about grape culture from his Icarian friends, Emile planted eight acres of vineyards. After Prohibition in 1936, the Baxter family winery became Illinois' first bonded winery.
In a sharply different region of Illinois, the Shawnee Hills, Guy Renzaglia founded Alto Vineyards in 1984. He planted new varieties such as Chancellor, Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc, and Villard Blanc. Renzaglia and two other growers founded the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail in the 1990s.
In 2004, twelve grape varieties accounties for 89% of grape area harvested in Illinois. The favorite varieties, in descending order by area devoted to production, were Chardonel, Chambourcin, Vignoles, Traminette, Concord, Foch, Seyval, Norton, Vidal Blanc, Frontenac, Niagara, and Cayuga White.
Many of these varieties are "hybrid" varieties. These hybrids, which are adapted to the cold climates of central and northern Illinois, are grapes grown from vines that are hybridized descendants of both European vinifera grapes and native American grape varieties.
Shawnee Hills American Viticultural Area
One of the foremost grape-growing regions of Illinois is the Shawnee Hills, in Jackson County and Union County near Carbondale, Illinois in far southern Illinois. This region was listed as the Shawnee Hills American Viticultural Area (Shawnee Hills AVA) in December 2006, becoming the first American Viticultural Area within Illinois. Besides the benefits of appellation recognition, this designation allows wineries to use the term “Estate Bottled” for wines produced on the same premises on which the grapes are grown. As of 2006, the Shawnee Hills AVA included 15 wineries and 55 vineyards. Jackson and Union Counties were the two foremost wine-producing counties in Illinois.
Characteristics that contributed to this decision are the lack of glaciation, as well as the bordering rivers. The heightened elevation (400 ft above neighboring land) in concert with sandstone and limestone subsoil offers satisfactory drainage, and summer breezes reduce fungal infestation. The climate of the Shawnee Hills AVA, within the Illinois Ozarks region, resembles several areas in Missouri known for their wine (see Missouri wine). The climate also resembles certain regions in Spain and Italy.
The Illinois State Fair, operated by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, recognizes ten distinct categories of Illinois wine:
- Dessert wine
- Fruit wine
- Generic blended wine
- Hybrid red
- Hybrid white
- Native American red
- Native American white
- Sparkling wine
- Vinifera red
- Vinifera white
In addition to grape-based wine, several wineries in the Illinois Ozarks and other regions of Illinois make fruit wine from apples, peaches, and berries. Fruit wine is an officially recognized category within the Illinois wine industry.
- Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association
- Campbell-Shoemaker monograph
- "Illinois Wine"
- "Normal Daily Mean Temperature- Selected Cities"
- "Shawnee Hills Wine Trail/History."