Disappointing apple crop hurts wineries

Last spring’s wildly fluctuating temperatures have seriously affected the harvest at some of the state’s apple orchards, and that has hurt New Hampshire’s nascent wine and spirits industry.According to projections by the USDA, New Hampshire’s apple harvest this year is expected to fall by as much as 18 percent, with a harvest of about 24.5 million pounds this year, compared to 30 million pounds in 2009 and 36.5 million pounds in 2008.The Granite State’s apple crop brought in some $14.7 million last year, but the numbers for the 2010 season won’t be known until the harvest is over and tallied, sometime in December.The damage to the apple crop wasn’t so much the cold snap back in May as it was the unseasonably warm temperatures that occurred in the preceding weeks.According to Steve Wood, owner of Poverty Lane Orchards and Farnum Hill Ciders in Lebanon, while his orchards were far from unscathed, the varieties of apples he grows specifically for nonalcoholic cider did quite well, especially those that bloomed later in the season.Other apples he grows to add acidity to his hard ciders didn’t fare as well, however.Hard, or fermented, apple cider actually bears little resemblance to apple juice, which can sometimes be called cider as well. Hard cider is about 6.5 percent to 8.5 percent alcohol and is made from apples that are grown specifically for that purpose.Wood, who makes several thousand cases each year of his hard cider, said he would probably supplement his acid apples with some from Vermont.”It’s a bit of a difficult situation, but not desperate. We’re not having to buy apples from all over the place. I believe we will be able to make some good cider from 2010,” said Wood.Production by the state’s wineries remains relatively small – the state Department of Agriculture doesn’t currently capture statistics on it.There are about 21 wineries registered with the state. Seventeen or so wineries, cideries and other fermented beverage producers are actively producing commercial quantities and are members in the New Hampshire Winery Association, an affiliated program of New Hampshire Made, an organization that promotes awareness of Granite State products. — CINDY KIBBE/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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