Hard Cider, Spirits, and Wine

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Growers and researchers are working to identify grape varieties that grow well in Vermont - and produce delicous wine. Photo: Boyden Valley Winery

Despite Vermont’s small size, its breweries, distilleries, and wineries are demonstrating national leadership in fast growing segments of the alcohol beverage industry: craft beer, hard cider, ice cider, craft spirits, and boutique wine. 

As the farm-to-glass movement grows, Vermont’s cideries, distilleries, and wineries are using a growing list of local ingredients, including apples, berries, grains, milk whey, vegetables, maple sap and syrup, honey, and grapes. Vermont is well-known for apple production and Vermont hard cider is an increasingly important value-added product that is winning awards and bringing more dollars by volume for “second-rate” apples that are being pressed into crisp bubbly drinks. Vermont’s craft distilled spirits are using numerous local ingredients and gaining national recognition for superior quality. With at least 16 distilleries now operating in Vermont, the state is experiencing a “modern distilling revival,” leading Seven Days food writer Corin Hirsch to recently claim, “Within a decade, Vermont may well be known as a craft-distilling epicenter.”

Growing grapes continues to present a significant challenge for wine production in the Northeast region: cold winters, a short growing season, and disease and other pest pressures throughout the plants’ lifespan are more of a problem here than in places like California, where the majority of U.S. wine grapes are grown. But researchers are beginning to establish varieties that best match northern climes, and the trial-and-error experience of Vermont’s earliest wineries have begun to identify the cold-hardy varieties that grow well here while also producing quality wine.

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