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University of Kentucky Ag Program To Sell Its Own Wine

Stephen Patton, UK Agricultural Communications

The University of Kentucky is getting into the wine business.

The school announced it will start selling wine it produces from its horticulture research farm — but only on a limited basis and to a limited group.

The wine will only be available through a subscription-based community supported agriculture program for faculty, staff and students.

It will also be available at UK owned-and-operated facilities such as the Boone Center and Spindletop Hall.

Patsy Wilson, an extension specialist for viticulture at UK, said the goal is not to compete with the state’s $165 million wine and grape industry, but to make its research program sustainable.

“Selling wine is twofold in helping our program financially as well as just not wasting a lot of product,” she said.

Along with harvesting research grapes and composting, making experimental wine on the farm means that a lot of wine gets poured out.

Tyler Madison, program manager at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the Kentucky Grape and Wine Council said the university is integral to the state’s wine and grape industry.

“What UK does is probably the most important thing for the wine industry,” he said.

That includes planting different varieties of grapes and sharing with growers what works well and what doesn’t.

“We like to do all the trial and error for the growers,” Wilson said.

And the university hopes by selling its wine it can present new varieties to wine consumers.

"My hope is that we can do some introduction to some of these hybrid grapes that do well, not just in Kentucky, but in the Eastern region,” Wilson said.

Some of the white and red hybrids that grow well in the state are Vidal Blanc, Norton, Chambourcin and Vignoles.

According to 2014 data, there were 125 grape growers in the state, and 216,000 yearly visitors to Kentucky wineries.

UK will begin limited sales of wine it produces once it gets licensing, which officials hope happens later this year. Wilson said prices for the wine CSAs are still being worked out.

Roxanne Scott covers education for WFPL News.