The Norton Grape Links Missouri To Wine Industry
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The Norton Grape Links Missouri To Wine Industry

Date: April 12, 2012
By: Crystall Cho
State Capitol Bureau

The Norton Grape serves an important role as Missouri's official state fruit to make Missouri the wine state.
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Wrap: Only Missouri has its own state grape.

The state of Missouri officially adopted the Norton grape, also known as Cynthiana, as the official state fruit in 2003. 

Currently, Missouri ranks eighth in the nation for wine production and eleventh for grape production.

The Missouri Wine and Grape Board's executive director Jim Anderson says the Norton grape is considered the Missouri cornerstone of the nation's $1.6 billion dollar wine industry.

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Description: "The industry has continued to grow. In the last five to seven years alone, we almost doubled in size from going from about 60 wineries to about 116 wineries."
Anderson says the Misouri wine industry started in the 1840s and was the second largest wine-producing state in the nation in 1920 before prohibition.

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Description: "We start seeing this rebirth of the Missouri wine industry in the 1960s, and it continued to grow until present, where we have over 1,700 acres of grape spurring in the state of Missouri."

Missouri's third largest winery, Les Bourgeois (Le-Boo-Jua) in Rocheport (Row-Che-Port), distributes wine not only in Missouri but also throughout Kansas, Illinois and even Louisiana.  

Les Bourgeois Winery's (Le-Boo-Jua) winemaker Cory Bomgaars says Norton is one of the main grapes used to produce wine and it costs more than other wines.

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Description: "It's relatively moderate yielding, it's labor intensive, the juice yield of what you have with the grape is lower. Typically we barrel age it for 18-24 months, so all those things cost more money."
Even with the higher price, Stone Hill Winery's vice president and general manager John Held from Branson says this particular grape suits well as Missouri's state fruit.

Actuality:  HELD.WAV
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Description: "So the heat and the sunlight exposure that we have during the growing season is really an optimum for the cultivar and riping here."

The Norton grape's diverse characteristics make it a lot more interesting than simply just a grape.

There's even a book about it written by grape expert Paul Roberts.

He says although growers don't typically like to pick the Norton grape because it's usually in clusters, this grape has an agricultural advantage.

Actuality:  ROBER2.WAV
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Description: "It's very disease-resistant, so it's well-liked by growers. In the vineyard, towards being disease-resistant make it a very popular grape and it's fairly productive as well."
According to the Missouri Secretary of State's office, the Norton grape is North America’s oldest grape variety still commercial grown.

Reporting from the state capitol, I'm Crystall Cho.