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Hot, dry summer is fine for wines, vineyard owners say
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North Georgia’s wine country is where dozens of vineyards grow their own grapes and produce and sell their own wines.

While the South doesn’t share the climates of Napa Valley or Burgundy, France, grapes do well in the region and have even flourished in the dry summer weather.

Matthew Garner, general manager for Montaluce Winery in Dahlonega, said the current drought has helped the vineyards this season.

“Heat is great for us,” Garner said. “Hot and dry is fantastic. If you look at some of the best wine-growing regions in the U.S., they’re high deserts. It’s places where they don’t have humidity to worry about. So the lower humidity rates have been good for fruit growth.”

Garner said pressures of disease also go down in lower humidity rates, which have resulted in “a fantastic crop.”

Sharon Paul, owner of Three Sisters Vineyards in Dahlonega, said too much rain is often a bigger problem than too little. She said when there is too much rainfall, “there is nothing you can do.”

But rain is needed in the spring, she said, and this year’s drier spring “kicked us in the butt.”

“We’re among the fortunate few who has a pond and an irrigation system,” she said. “We sacrificed our pond for our grapes this year. It looks pitiful now, but the grapes are doing well. We really needed it this year and we’ve pumped a lot of water this year.”

Paul said the vineyards would typically only irrigate once every “three or four years, at most.”

“During the growing season, grapes are like any other plant that needs water to grow, but as they begin to ripen we would prefer it to be dry,” she said. “As they ripen, the sugars concentrate in the fruit. But in the spring, when they are actively growing, you need some good moisture to help them do their thing.”

Garner agreed, and said the dry summer has been good and he hopes for a dry fall.

“If I can just keep the rain off through harvest, we’ll be doing really well,” he said. “Historically, what happens right around this time of year, the same time our fruit is starting to ripen, we’ll get those pop-up showers that have started to happen.”

As the fruit ripens, it takes on the moisture in the air, Garner said. But what growers want is less water in the grape and more sugar.

“It’s inconvenient to say the least,” he said, “because the sugar concentration is what gives you alcohol.”

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