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Cultivating an industry—from vine to wine

Michigan is the nation’s fifth-largest wine-grape producer with a burgeoning industry of wine-grape growers and vineyards. But back in the 1970s, the majority of the state’s vineyards were dedicated to juice-grape production. That changed when an MSU horticulturist identified hybrid grape varieties that could thrive in Michigan’s cold climate. The work fueled the growth of Michigan’s wine industry and established MSU as a viticulture research institution.

Paolo Sabbatini, MSU assistant professor of horticulture, left Italy to complete his doctorate at MSU, where he is now the statewide research and extension viticulturist. With Sabbatini at the helm, MSU helps drive the industry’s growth—and the Michigan economy—by educating future viticulturists and working with wine-grape growers to apply the latest research to everything from weather changes to pest management and disease control to new grape varieties.

Today, Michigan is home to 101 commercial wineries that produce more than one million gallons of wine each year and play a significant role in boosting tourism, drawing more than 800,000 visitors annually. With MSU as an ally, the wine industry contributes $300 million each year to Michigan’s economy—a home-grown success worth toasting.