Purdue University struggles to support Indiana winery boom

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.— Purdue University is struggling to support winemakers as wineries increasingly pop up across the state.

Purdue Wine Grape Team officials told the Lafayette Journal & Courier that it has encountered decreased funds in recent years even though the number of Indiana wineries has nearly tripled in the past decade, from 30 to 85.

Team member and enology professor Christian Butzke said the group has fewer resources to take care of the larger and growing industry because of a decline in the amount of funding the program is receiving from a state excise tax. Every gallon of wine sold in Indiana provides 5 cents in taxes to fund the Indiana Wine Grape Council and the salaries of the Purdue Wine Grape team.

Butzke said overall consumption rates have dropped, so the team is receiving less money.

The council and wine grape team uses the funding for research in wine-making and grape-growing and for promoting the state’s wine industry, she said.

The university also has given modest salary increases and fringe benefits for the team over the years, which contributed to the squeeze on resources, according to Marshall Martin, director of the Indiana Wine Grape Market Development Council and Purdue’s senior associate director of agricultural research.

Martin said he encourages staff to apply for grants to help cover the costs. He would not provide data on budget information or how much the program received from the tax last year, but he said that none of the program’s budgets are in the red.

But the team and council still are uncertain about how to assist more wineries without additional funding.

“We have this discussion every meeting, and I don’t have a magic answer to it,” said Kim Doty, president of the Wine Grape Council and owner of French Lick Winery. “We’re just really struggling with that issue right now.”