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Indiana wines find new markets while Skillman visits Asia
If you are old enough that you are receiving those annoying AARP mailings, then you can remember a series of television commercials featuring Orson Welles.

In them, he intones “We will sell no wine before its time” in a pompous voice even deeper than James Earl Jones. For the Indiana wine industry that time has come.

A century ago the Hoosier state had an international reputation as a wine producer. Wineries covered the state and grape acreage was significant. Indiana even helped save the French wine industry when blight wiped out a particular variety of French grapes. Prohibition ended the industry overnight, and it never recovered.

In the past few years, however, the industry has seen a rebirth. The state has more than two-dozen locally owned wineries, and grape acreage is on the rise. Aggressive marketing, led by several innovative wineries, has caught the attention of Hoosier consumers, and now you can find Indiana wines in many retail stores as well as on location at the winery. Earlier this year a bill passed the General Assembly that allowed wineries to ship wine directly to consumers. This will increase the mail order business of local wineries.

Last week, the industry took another step forward as part of the state sponsored trade mission to Taiwan and Vietnam. Representatives of two Hoosier wineries were part of the delegation and as a result struck a deal to export wine to Taiwan and mainland China. It turns out that Asian consumers have a taste for the sweeter, fruitier vintages we produce here in the Midwest.

Another factor behind the growth in the Indiana wine industry is the research and support of Purdue University. Research on grape varieties, production methods, and wine making chemistry have helped Hoosier vintners improve their products and production. The efforts of the Wine Grape Council have developed effective marketing and promotional programs.

The industry has even been noticed by the state’s highest officials. I have it on good authority that Gov. Daniels is considering stocking Indiana wine in the Governor’s mansion. This is a case study on how farmers, supported by research and government, can grow their markets and their industry.

Other sectors of agriculture could learn a lot from this example. First, it takes a willingness to work together. It takes creative and new approaches to problems. It takes a plan and a vision. Finally, it takes time.

Interested in growing your market? Take a cue from Hoosier wine makers. Improve you product, market your product, and work to develop the market for your product. With proper aging, you also may uncork new opportunities.

This farm news was published in the Oct. 11, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.