Grapes thrive in drought, ready to be made into wine

Grapes ready to be picked at Irvin House Vineyards (Brandon Geier/WCIV)

By Sonya

WADMAWLAW ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) -- The drought has been tough on some crops this year, but the grapes out at Irvin House Vineyards have done well.

There are rows of green leaves, which underneath bear grapes that have thrived despite the dry weather.

"Had a drought almost all summer, my irrigation pond which is in the back is down about seven feet," said Jim Irvin, owner of Irvin House Vineyards. "I can stand in it and still can't see the water level at the top of the bank."

What saved the grapes this year is the type of soil.

"This soil, we are very lucky is clay. You wouldn't think so on a sea island, but we have very little sand here and it holds water. Wet water gets on there very well and we have been fairly lucky," said Irvin.

Of course, it helps that these Muscadine grapes are native to the southeast.

"They are used to this hot, humid weather or hot, dry. This grape has two more chromosomes in it then the regular wine grape," said Irvin. "I like to call it the smart grape. It's immune to all the wine diseases, so we don't have to spray with anything ever."

Harvesting has begun, but it's important to make sure the grapes are ripe before they are taken off the vine.

"This is a refractometer. What it does, it takes the sugar that's in the grape, squeeze the grape right there, put that down and look through it," said Irvin.

It gives you a percentage and what Irvin wants is 15 to 18 percent sugar.

"We'll crush them and put them into a vat," said Irvin. "We'll let them sit for a day and then we'll introduce yeast to them tomorrow and the yeast will start.{} The way you make alcohol is, the only way is with yeast. What we pick today, we will probably put in a bottle February or March."

You can get the opportunity to stomp grapes on Saturday, August 25th, during the 9th Annual Grape Stomping Festival at Irvin House Vineyards. The event is from noon to 5 p.m.

There will be contests, food and craft vendors along with a band. It is $10 per car to get into the festival. Carpooling is recommended.

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