The temperature as I write this article has not gotten above 0°F all day and it is a good reminder of why we grow Cold Climate Grape Varieties in Iowa. Vitis vinifera vines (which includes grape varieties like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon) will freeze off at the ground at our temperatures. 0°F will not kill the Vitis vinifera vine but it will kill the trunk and it will take two years before a new productive trunk will emerge from the ground and produce grapes.
Cold Climate grape varieties (also known as Northern Grape Varieties) are hybrids between Vitis riperia which is native to northeastern North American and other grape varieties. It is cold tolerant usually to about -25°F so it takes our winter temperatures in stride.
Another characteristic of our Cold Climate grape varieties is that they are somewhat resistant to some of the fungi that are commonly present in our vineyards such as powdery mildew and downy mildew. They still have to be sprayed with fungicides but not as often as Vitis vinfera vines if they were grown in our very humid summer climate.
So, the Cold Climate Grape Varieties such as Edelweiss, Brianna, La Crescent, Marquette, Sabrevois, and Petite Pearl survive our cold winters, and ripen in our short growing seasons and are otherwise well suited for our unique weather patterns.