New Mexicans have been growing wine grapes since 1629, when Spanish monks planted vines in the Rio Grande valley near present day Socorro. Through the centuries, viticulturists have demonstrated that the state’s semi-arid climate and plentiful sunshine can be ideal for vineyards.
Wine consumption and the wine industry are thriving, adding approximately $50 million annually in tax revenue to the state’s coffers, according to the National Association of American Wineries 2017 economic impact report. However, vineyard owners, viticulturists and farmers of other crops are looking for ways to diversify their operations. One way is to expand to a niche market of table grapes.
New Mexico State University College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences researchers listening to growers think there is real potential to create a table grape industry in the state.
“This could be an emerging New Mexico market,” said Dale Ellis, Las Cruces small vineyard owner and winemaking instructor at NMSU. “Table grapes could join chillies, pecans and wine in the specifically New Mexican market.”
New Mexico State University Extension viticulture specialist Gill Giese, left, shows a table grape varieties rooted vine to Chuck Havlick, senior research assistant and the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas. Variety trials of 15 cultivars are being conducted at experimental farms at Los Lunas, Alcalde and Farmington.
Table grapes are the third most consumed fresh fruit in the United States, behind bananas and apples.