5 Things to Know About Pennsylvania Wine

pennsylvania vineyards

The term “fun fact” gets thrown around more than it should be. But, since we’re talking about wine here, we’re supremely confident in using the phrase in this particular context. Read on and see what you think:

Fun fact 1: The birth of PA Wine Land predates the birth of our nation – and involves some of its major players!

It’s nearly impossible to talk about Pennsylvania history without mentioning William Penn. So, it should come as no surprise that this revolutionary Quaker had his hand in the beginnings of the Pennsylvania wine industry. In 1682, Penn sailed back from England toting a bundle of Bordeaux vines which he planted in what is now Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. While those particular vines didn’t amount to much, they did stick around long enough to pollinate some of the region’s native vines – and a thriving industry.

Fast forward about a century and you’ll encounter some other early American A-listers, like Robert Morris, Citizen Genet, and notorious foes Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, as stakeholders in the state’s first commercial winery (as if they didn’t have other matters to worry about!). Over the course of the next hundred or so years, the momentum continued to build. By the early 1900s, winemaking was going on in every one of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties – just in time for Prohibition. Luckily, with that dry period roughly a century in our rearview, we know that it was but a blip in our winemaking history.

Fun fact 2: There are more wineries in Pennsylvania than covered bridges.

The Keystone State is home to nearly 300 wineries. Some are large. Some are small. Some are contemporary. Some are rustic. Some are luxurious. Some are laid back. Even better? These oases for the thirsty traveler aren’t just tucked into a certain “wine region” or two – they are peppered across every region of the state. In fact, from anywhere within Pennsylvania’s borders, you’re less than an hour’s drive from at least one winery.

Related, PA is fifth in the nation for grape growing, boasting fourteen THOUSAND acres of vineyard. That’s an impressive stat on its own, but even more brag-worthy when presented alongside the fact that we are only 32nd in terms of landmass. In short, PA has its priorities as straight as a row of vines when it comes to land use.

Fun fact 3: Pennsylvania’s climate draws a closer comparison to European wine regions than other American ones.

European grapes like popular Pinot Noir and trendy Albariño are surprisingly at home in Pennsylvania’s climate. While similarities between Scranton and Spain might not immediately jump to mind, the hot summers and cold winters provide enough common “ground” for those European vines.

And that’s not all. Two other categories of grapes are equally well-suited for Pennsylvania’s terroir: the native grapes that took root here on their own and the hybrid grapes that were bred to thrive in this specific climate. When you combine those three categories, there’s a varietal for nearly every palate from sweet to dry to dessert to fortified (and that’s not even counting the blends!).

Fun fact 4: PA Wine Land attracts more than 2 million visitors per year.

Wineries provide a major tourism draw to and within our state, accounting for more than $476 million in tourism revenue. In addition to their winemaking “day jobs,” wineries often serve double duty as entertainment venues, hosting food festivals, live music performances, seasonal celebrations, and creative events like yoga in the vineyard and paint parties.

Wine trails crisscross the state and collaborate on events and experiences to highlight their specific regions. But sometimes, the most spectacular event of all is a simple sunset. Pennsylvania’s wineries boast some of the state’s most stunning natural backdrops, overlooking acres of hills, lakes, agricultural vistas, and, of course, vineyards. That show of Mother Nature’s handiwork is best enjoyed with a glass of wine in hand.

Fun fact 5: Pennsylvania wines are proven palate-pleasers.

When you consider Pennsylvania’s long winemaking history, its vast grape-growing landscape, the extensive varietals the state produces, and the droves of travelers that flock PA Wine Land year after year, this last fun fact should come as no surprise. Pennsylvania wines have collected praise – and the hardware to prove it – on local, national, and international stages and pages.

Back at home, dozens of sommeliers gather each year to blind taste test and score more than a hundred local wines during the annual Sommelier Judgment. The resulting Top 10 List (or sometimes 11) celebrates excellence in winemaking across the state and has included breakout stars such as Teroldego, Grüner Veltliner, and Cabernet Franc.