Wine Talk

Snooth User: williplantsman


Posted by williplantsman, Apr 20, 2011.
Edited Apr 20, 2011

In recent years there has been a proliferation of wineries in the upper Midwest, including states such as Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. They seem to be making a lot of wine from grapes that are unfamiliar to most of us, such as Edelweiss, Frontenac and Marechal Foch. Apparently these are grapes that are hybrids. The wineries seem to be doing really well, but when the subject of hyrbid wines comes up, a lot of wine lovers are dismissive. Then I hear the wineries talking about winning awards, sometimes in competitions in places like California, even Europe. What is it with hybrid grapes. Can they make good wines?


Reply by tulaw, Apr 22, 2011.

Of course they can.  A good wine is a wine you like.  I have visited some of the wineries in Iowa and Wisconsin, and I have tasted some great wines there.  Are they a bit different, yes, but that is just an adjective, too.  Call it red table wine, or white wine, and see if you like it.  Almost no one in France identifies their wines by the type of grape, but rather by the region, and those vary greatly by what grows best there.  Regional wineries in America get reviews and followings because people are interested in supporting their local industries.  Don't think the exact thing is not happening in France (or California, Oregon, or Washington).  Quality wine is all that matters, and quality wine can be made from many types of grapes-- even from wild muscidine if you are a good southern boy. 

My point is simple. A dedicated wine maker can make a great wine from many varieties, singularly or blended.  Drink what you like and don't worry if Wine Spectator scored it high, low, or never heard of it.  You can even try making your own and then learn to appreciate the real master vintners.

Reply by GregT, Apr 22, 2011.

Mostly I'd agree with the above.  To the first point raised by the OP - most awards are meaningless.  You can have the neighborhood garage winemakers award and have the best wine on your block.  Maybe you're one of only 2 people doing it so you get a gold and the other guy gets silver.  I rarely meet a winemaker or producer in Europe who can't tell me about some award the wine has rec'd somewhere.  I just wink at them and congratulate them on the rare and prestigious honor and they usually just laugh. 

Doesn't mean the wine's no good.  A few people got into winemaking full time because they were winning local awards. But it doesn't mean the wine's any good either.  The state fair judges who are judging the pie eating contest may well be the same ones judging the wine and the first and only time they've had wine that year may well be the one they're drinking at the fair. 

Separately, the issue of hybrid grapes is more interesting to me. Wine drinkers are essentially super-conservative.  The more one knows about wine, the more conservative one usually becomes too.  They think they're all liberal and that Democrats drink wine while Republicans drink beer, but raise the subject of blending Pinot Noir and see what you get as a reaction.  Especially in Europe, where political connections have created a wealth of laws devoted to what can and can't be done and/or produced in a given area, there is great reluctance to experiment.  So we end up in a curious world where we want the most up to date mobile phone, and we want the most nutritious carrot and want to figure out how to make foam out of a pork chop, but we think that all the wine grapes that ever need to exist are already here.

It's funny in a way.  There's absolutely no reason that we can't continue to hybridize and develop a grape that's more resistant to pests, produces higher yields than Grenache, and ripens fully with big round tannins, wonderful flavor, and sugar levels that would produce a wine of approximately 12.5% alc.  But nobody wants to do that.  If you can't call it Merlot, you can't sell it.  So in France they have things like Marselan, which is a fairly recent creation.  In Germany they have Regent and a Zweigelt, but you need to be pretty brave to buck the status quo.

In the US we're more receptive in one sense but OTOH, we have no idea where to plant most of those grapes and there's no history of fine wine produced from most of them.  Back in the 1800s there was more work being done but that's of limited use these days.  Who thinks of Missouri as a great wine producing region?  So most of those wines end up as curiosities.  I have had zero wine produced from hybrid grapes that I think is good, much less great.  But I don't think that means it can't be done and we should be dismissive.  I think it just means we need to do more work.

Reply by dmcker, Apr 23, 2011.

Well stated, Greg, across the board. In many ways I'll agree with you, Tulaw, but I also have yet to have a good wine made from hybrids in non-mainstream wineproducing states in the US. Just because someone somewhere likes it for some reason doesn't make it a good, wellmade wine. I do definitely appreciate someone's pioneering efforts in a region, and will stop and try all sorts of wines when in whatever region in the US or elsewhere across the globe, but hope they keep trying to up their game....

Reply by GregT, Apr 24, 2011.

Yeah.  I want to try all sorts of things too but . . .

I have a bottle of cherry wine that I guess I better try soon.  I was told it's actually OK stuff by someone I rather respect, so I took a bottle, but every time I pick it up I hesitate.  I guess I'll have to take one for the team.

Reply by dmcker, Apr 24, 2011.

Suck it up, Greg... ;-)

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