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New Jersey Wineries May Yield Standout Vintages Due to Dry Summer Weather

Wine lovers in New Jersey may be treated with another standout vintage this year due to the dry summer weather.

The weather plays a major role in how grapes grow during the year, having a direct connection with the quality of the wine that is produced at the end of the growing season.

"So far [this year] looks excellent. It's been quite dry," said Dr. Gary Pavlis, professor and agricultural agent at Rutgers University.

"If September stays as dry as August, we're going to have a really beautiful vintage."

According to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, New Jersey is the seventh largest wine-producing state in the country, making over 1.5 million gallons of wine each year.

Compared to a summer with frequent rain, a drier-than-normal summer typically results in better wine.

"Water is the enemy to grapes," said Pavlis.

Pavlis explained that when it rains, the water absorbed by the plants goes directly into the grapes, causing them to plump up.

As a result, when these plump grapes are used for making wine, it dilutes the wine, making it taste as though it has been watered down.

During dry summers, such as this summer, the grapes do not plump up as much, giving the wine more flavor.

"In 2010, it was a very dry and hot year in New Jersey and is considered the best vintage in the history of New Jersey," said Pavlis.

2014 was also drier than normal, making it a great vintage year.

"If you look at the areas of the world that make the best wine, they tend to not have much rain in the summertime," Pavlis continued.

Since the start of this summer, rainfall has varied across the Garden State.

The wettest areas in New Jersey have been generally closer to the beaches and over the southern extent of the state.

Meanwhile, the central and northern parts of the state have generally averaged below normal in terms of rainfall. It is wineries in these areas that have received the best weather for grape growing.

Driest Cities in New Jersey (June 20, 2015 -Aug. 26, 2015)
City Rainfall (inches) % of Normal
Caldwell 4.76 48
Lakehurst 4.70 51
Somerville 5.49 54
Morristown 5.33 56

With the end of the growing season right around the corner, the most critical time for grape growers is nearing.

"During the summer, the most crucial time is during the harvest," said Pavlis.

Vineyards typically harvest their grapes during September and October, depending on the ripeness of the grapes and the type of wine that is being produced.

If a major storm produces heavy rain right before harvest, it could plump up the grapes at the tail end of the season and spell the end of a standout vintage year.

"The last thing we need is tropical storms coming in during September," said Pavlis.

As stated in AccuWeather's 2015 US Fall Forecast, the weather pattern in the Northeast will feature warm and dry conditions ahead of a stormy, snowy winter.

This should be favorable weather for wineries across New Jersey as they prepare for harvest and begin producing this year's vintage.