The climate and soil of North Carolina more than adequately permit it to be the home for an increasing number of vineyards, although the summer heat of the state can interfere because grapevines may shut down when temperatures regularly exceed 95 degrees Fahrenheit. To grow grapes successfully, a vineyard needs an annual mean temperature range between 50 and 68 degree Fahrenheit. In addition, according to Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia, at least 1,300 hours of sunshine during the growing season is needed to produce grapes suitable for winemaking. Daily sunshine helps to develop a grape’s sugar and flavor, and cool nights preserve a grape’s acidity. For example, the Haw River Valley AVA (in Alamance, Caswell, Chatham, Guilford, Orange and Rockingham counties) has a long growing season with the desired temperatures -- and 214 frost-free days.
In addition, soil is another important consideration in selecting the location to plant grapevines. For example, the Swan Creek AVA compasses less than 200 square miles in only three counties -- Wilkes, Yadkin and Iredell. Because this AVA is close to the Brushy Mountains, its soil has a distinct, loamy quality and consists of schist, mica and other minerals. As a result, five vineyards take advantage of this special location.
North Carolina has been a winemaking state for much of its history. However, only recently did organizations form in the state to support growing grapes and making wine, and the demand for “local” wine has furthered the interest in winemaking. The first state group to organize was the North Carolina Muscadine Grape Growers Association. In fact, the muscadine has been celebrated extensively in North Carolina because it is the home of the 400-year-old scuppernong “mother vine,” and the N.C. Muscadine Festival in Kenansville far surpasses similar festivals in other parts of the American South.
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