Help me understand the peculiarities of local wine

A section for those relatively new to wine, 'geeks in training', and for common wine topics
Post Reply
Message
Author
Ralph Dennett
Posts: 3
Joined: March 14th, 2018, 6:08 pm

Help me understand the peculiarities of local wine

#1 Post by Ralph Dennett » March 15th, 2018, 10:05 am

I live in Arkansas--not exactly prime wine territory. Until recently, our grocery stores were only legally permitted to sell local wines. Until the law changed, emergencies aside, I would only buy wine at liquor stores because of the unusual qualities of local wine. Post and Wiederkehr are the most common local wines, though I've had others as well. They're all inexpensive, but unlike Oregon/Washington whites, they don't pack quite the same value.

To get to the point, some of these wines taste like harsh, poor quality grocery store brands--they're undeniably real wines, though. The others, however, taste like grape juice with spirit added at a point near bottling. It's like what happens when you try to make sangria from grape juice and vodka--you taste the individual components. I've had both local reds and whites that have this disjointed character, and the bottles that exhibit this usually make no mention of a specific grape.
I currently have a bottle of Post 'Niagra' (white). While this winery grows their own grapes, this particular bottle just says "American wine" and "vinted and bottled in Altus, Arkansas"--which means they likely had very little to do with the making of the wine. It's 12% ABV and it tastes like Welch's white grapejuice plus spirit. That's opposed to Post's chardonnay which is clearly grown from local grapes and actually tastes like wine (albeit not good wine, which is understandable in this climate). Their vineyards are not large and it seems they're supplementing their legitimate offerings with ones of more dubious provenance.

I've never had a nationally sold wine which tastes more like a wine cooler than an actual wine. I suspect what is going on here is that these local wineries sell some authentic wines, and some grapejuice + spirit mixes which lax local regulations allow them to sell as actual wines--something that would not pass in most states (or which is possibly prevented at the federal level).

Does anyone have any insight on this? Arbor Mist isn't allowed to be sold as a wine--it's labeled as a 'wine product'. Is it lax local laws that permit local wineries to sell what are obviously 'wine products' as actual wines in my state?

User avatar
Eric Ifune
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 3363
Joined: June 19th, 2009, 7:43 pm

Help me understand the peculiarities of local wine

#2 Post by Eric Ifune » March 15th, 2018, 3:20 pm

Sounds like your local wine is indeed locally made, but the raw materials are grape concentrate from somewhere else. Hence the American appellation.

User avatar
PeterJ
Posts: 1724
Joined: June 25th, 2009, 1:24 pm
Location: Mission Viejo, CA

Help me understand the peculiarities of local wine

#3 Post by PeterJ » March 15th, 2018, 4:34 pm

The only time I’ve ever seen “America” on a wine bottle as an appellation was when Whole Foods introduced a Two Buck Chuck wannabe (Lord only knows why) and one of the reds carried that source name. I just assumed the grapes came from ‘wherever’.
Peter J@ckel

TGigante
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 118
Joined: January 26th, 2013, 3:11 pm
Location: BURGHen County, NJ

Help me understand the peculiarities of local wine

#4 Post by TGigante » March 15th, 2018, 5:51 pm

PeterJ wrote:The only time I’ve ever seen “America” on a wine bottle as an appellation was when Whole Foods introduced a Two Buck Chuck wannabe (Lord only knows why) and one of the reds carried that source name. I just assumed the grapes came from ‘wherever’.
Check out Gruet sparkling. They formerly listed NM as AV but started sourcing grapes elsewhere and now use America on some of their bottlings
Cheers,
Tony

Ralph Dennett
Posts: 3
Joined: March 14th, 2018, 6:08 pm

Help me understand the peculiarities of local wine

#5 Post by Ralph Dennett » March 15th, 2018, 6:13 pm

I suspect from the flavor these are indeed just grape concentrate + water + neutral spirits. What I'm wondering is how they get away with calling it "wine". Is it just a problem with my hick state, or is this garbage a nation-wide phenomena? Isn't this in fact a "wine product" rather than a wine?

What I have right now, the "American, vinted and bottled by Post" bottle I mentioned before, doesn't taste awful. However, it's obviously not wine. It's what a bad mom mixes up in a sippy cup using grape juice and vodka when she wants to knock her 3-year-old out so she can relax for a few hours.

Trivia time: At one point, Arkansas produced more wine than any other state in the then-young country. It's sad that today one of the state's oldest wineries is putting their names on spiked grapejuice of undisclosed origin (beyond "America").

User avatar
Eric Ifune
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 3363
Joined: June 19th, 2009, 7:43 pm

Help me understand the peculiarities of local wine

#6 Post by Eric Ifune » March 16th, 2018, 2:16 pm

If it's added neutral spirits, then I don't believe it can be labeled wine. It's diluted grape concentrate with added yeast and then fermented. Real wine, but pretty much dreck.

Ralph Dennett
Posts: 3
Joined: March 14th, 2018, 6:08 pm

Help me understand the peculiarities of local wine

#7 Post by Ralph Dennett » March 16th, 2018, 5:04 pm

Does that taste like grapejuice + vodka? I'm used to bad, but real, local wines tasting harsh. This stuff, on the other hand, is very easy to drink, and totally devoid of interesting qualities.

User avatar
Matt K
Posts: 55
Joined: March 19th, 2018, 10:44 am

Help me understand the peculiarities of local wine

#8 Post by Matt K » March 19th, 2018, 12:28 pm

One of the tough things about finding high quality local wine, especially in very small production states, is you have to wade through a lot of mediocre to downright terrible wine in order to find high quality offerings. My advice would be to find a wine trail, or a winery in your state large enough to distribute/ship and use that as a jumping off point.

There seems to be a typicality for small wineries in unusual states to mom and pop shops where the wine is made from a glorified kit and subsidized by cheap bulk wine or shiners from out of state. That being said, there's some incredible wineries out there producing great wines in funky areas! Sounds like you might have just gotten a bad egg.
Matt Killman - ITB

Post Reply

Return to “Wine 101: The Basics”