Nfld. & Labrador

Grape growing potential 'wide open' in Newfoundland, says provincial fruit expert

Three producers are having success growing grapes on the island of Newfoundland - the next challenge is setting up a wine-producing vineyard.

Thousands of grape vines, next challenge - a winery

These luscious wine grapes are growing on at least three sites in Newfoundland. (Karen Kennedy)

All the makings of a home-grown wine industry are putting down roots on the island of Newfoundland. Local producers are growing thousands of grape vines and many of them are already harvesting fruit.

"When people think of Newfoundland they think of rocky soil - rain, drizzle and fog so obviously grapes are not going to grow everywhere but currently we do have three commercial grape producers," said Karen Kennedy, Fruit Crop Development Officer with the Provincial Forestry and Agrifoods Agency.

"We started modestly with 140 cold, hardy vines and now as of last year we have 2,000 vines planted in the province."

Kennedy played an important role in spearheading the grapevine boom.

"I was really interested in grapes and I knew that Nova Scotia was having great success and I thought to myself well why can't we grow them here?" she said.

"So I started an experimental vineyard in Pynn's Brook, between Pasadena and Deer Lake, and we started from that."

Producers in the province are growing a hybrid variety called "cold, hardy vines." They're a cross between  American and European varieties developed to withstand cold weather and produce European quality grapes.

Growth industry

The first crop of grapes was harvested at the provincially-owned Pynn's Brook site in 2015.

There are now five other sites on the island growing wine-grape vines, including a  Lethbridge-based producer who is also getting good results.

Three producers are growing these wine grapes in Newfoundland and selling them to a Nova Scotia wine producer. (Karen Kennedy)

"They started with 200 vines two years ago and he has expanded and we are actually seeing huge differences in yields at that site compared to Pynn's Brook, largely because it's close to the water and gets more heat," said Kennedy.

Vines don't produce grapes until three years after they are planted. Many of the vines in this province have been in the ground long enough to start yielding fruit and already a buyer has been found.

Next challenge

"Right now we don't have a place to make wine but we do have an individual in Nova Scotia who has offered to purchase our wine grapes to make wine in Nova Scotia. It's not really set in stone yet," said Kennedy.

Everybody likes drinking wine and everyone likes having local food.- Karen Kennedy

The next challenge is to develop a wine-producing vineyard here.

"The future of grapes here is wide open. Everybody likes drinking wine and everyone likes having local food and I think there is huge potential to market it that way. I think we could have a multi-million dollar industry in the province with grapes," said Kennedy.

"We have three different producers right now who are growing grapes," she said.

"We have the opportunity for those individuals to get together to develop a wine-making facility as opposed to exporting the grapes, but right now we don't have an individual willing to buy all of the grapes produced on the island."

There are other wineries in the province, in Whitbourne and Twillingate, but they produce wine made from berries.