Here’s something you may not know about Michigan wine: Over 50 varieties of wine grapes are cultivated in this state.

That’s right, an impressive variety of grapes – from A for Auxerrois to Z for Zweigelt – are grown, harvested, pressed, aged, bottled and made available for your enjoyment at tasting rooms, restaurants and retail stores all across Michigan … and beyond our borders.

What that means is, whatever you know about Michigan wine, it’s almost surely just part of a much greater story. Over the past 40 years, Michigan’s wine industry has grown and diversified. Quality wine grapes are cultivated in all corners of this state and our winemakers have been working with new grapes, new methods and an ever-increasing passion for showcasing the best Michigan has to offer.

It’s no stretch to say Michigan’s wine industry is stronger than it’s ever been. And Michigan wine has never been so good.

Great Lakes, Wonderful Grapes

So what’s the secret of Michigan’s wine success? In a word: Michigan.

You see, the same qualities that make Michigan such an amazing place to live or visit lend themselves to growing certain kinds of high quality wine grapes. With a real four-season climate, the rich soil that nourishes our state’s wide-ranging agriculture and geography similar to some of the world’s greatest wine regions – think Alsace, Mosel and the Loire Valley – Michigan is suited to helping a wide variety of wine grapes find their best and truest expression in your wine glass.

Plus, there’s that other secret ingredient. The Great Lakes.

Uniquely surrounded by the world’s largest, deepest and most abundant freshwater ecosystem – only Michigan touches four of the five Great Lakes – this state benefits from the effect all that water has on our weather. From deep winter snows to generous spring rains to light summer mists, the Great Lakes bring an extra touch to every acre, every vine, ever cluster of grapes as they grow. We’re not called “The Great Lakes State” for nothing.

It’s all part of what wine enthusiasts call terroir … the magic that happens when soil, geography, weather and grape come perfectly together, creating distinctive, memorable wines that could only be created right here in Michigan.

If You Seek A Pleasant Vineyard, Look Around You

If you’ve ever driven up, down and around Michigan, you know it’s a big state. The fact is, Michigan is the largest state by area east of the Mississippi River. That means you’ll find different regions where different grapes shine their brightest.

Right now, Michigan is home to five different American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), regions designated by the federal government as having characteristic soil, climate, growing conditions and grape output. Michigan’s five AVAs include (in order of designation) Fennville, Lake Michigan Shore, Leelanau Peninsula, Old Mission Peninsula and Tip Of The Mitt.

But don’t let that fool you. You’ll find high quality wineries and delicious wines produced all around the state. Look here for a comprehensive list of Michigan wineries.

Cool Climate Wine? What’s That?

If Michigan has a specialty, it’s what’s known as “cool climate wines.” These wines (and their cousin, “cold hardy” wines) are made from grapes that thrive in our kind of geography and climate. Michigan’s number one wine grape, by acreage, is Riesling. Number two is Chardonnay. And number three is Pinot Gris. These are Michigan’s flagship white wines. And they’re all made with cool climate grapes.

And if you’re a red wine drinker? We’ve got plenty of cool climate reds to choose from, including our top three by acreage, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. If you didn’t know these world-class wine varieties are considered cool climate, don’t worry. Most people don’t. But they should. Because these are grapes that perform exceptionally well in Michigan’s unique terroir.

And what makes Michigan’s cool climate wines distinctive as wine?

Compared to a lot of wines you’ll find at your grocery store or local wine shop, our cool climate wines tend to be lower in alcohol and more reflective of what the grape is supposed to taste like. Which makes them more naturally flavorful, fresher, crisper and cleaner. In others words, more drinkable. Cool climate wines are some of the hottest wines in the world right now, but they’re also among the most approachable … ready for you to open, pour and savor.

What’s more, Michigan’s cool climate wines have a close cousin that’s also growing in importance: Cold hardy grapes. As the name implies, these hybrids are cultivated to thrive in regions where growing seasons are shorter and winters are more wintery … just like a certain state we know. Michigan’s wineries, in particular those in the heart of the lower peninsula, are doing exceptional work turning cold hardy grapes like Marquette, Frontenac and Frontenac Gris into outstanding (and prize winning) wines. Be sure to check some out … any time of year.

And don’t forget: The grapes Michigan is known for just happen to be the grapes some of the world’s favorite styles of wine come from: Rosé and sparkling wines. That’s why most wineries in Michigan make one or both of these styles: Because they’re growing the grapes that make great rosés and bubblies.

So, whatever pleases your palate, you’re sure to find exceptional Michigan wine. Whether you’re pouring it to pair with your dinner or just want something to sit and savor, our state’s wine industry has something to surprise, delight and impress you.

So the next time “wine o’clock” rolls around, make sure you open a bottle from one of 150 wineries around our state and … Taste Michigan.