Profile and Challenges of the Emerging Oklahoma Grape Industry
This publication is a historical account of the Oklahoma Grape Industry up to 2007. Some items may have changed since this publication was written, such as the occurrence of Pierce’s Disease in the state. Grape Berry Moth now can be a significant pest. Licensed winery numbers have grown to 64 as of May 2015. Oklahoma vineyard owners continue to experiment with new varieties, both vinifera and hybrid types and are working to find the best management strategies in this somewhat new industry.
Oklahoma has had a long-standing relationship with grape cultivation. Oklahoma once had vast vineyards of domesticated table and wine grapes in the late 1800s and early decades of the 20th century. Prohibition laws have played a prominent role in the shaping of the Oklahoma grape and wine industry. In the 1890s, the Anti-Saloon League and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union focused on creating local anti-alcohol laws and by 1917, the “Bone Dry Law” banned all importation of alcoholic beverages into Oklahoma. The dust bowl and depression era followed; yet Oklahoma State University (then Oklahoma A&M College) re-initiated grape research in 1933 with 75 American and other hybrid cultivars, adding 43 FrenchAmerican hybrids in 1950 (Hinrichs, 1955). The winegrape industry in Oklahoma is primarily dependent upon V. vinifera cultivars, although some areas of the state have found hybrids and American cultivars more appropriate. V. vinifera, or European, grapes are generally considered the premium grapes for winemaking. As recently as 1997, approximately 170 acres of grapes were grown in the state of Oklahoma; that number grew to 375 acres in 2002 and 525 acres in 2005 (OGGWMA, 2005).