Unconventional Wine Regions

Wine SnobIf grapes can be grown somewhere, it seems that there is always someone who will proclaim it the new hot wine region. Climate change is wreaking havoc on some traditional growing regions, while it simultaneously creates new ones in unexpected places. Global warming, it seems, is the proverbial ill wind that blows some good for someone.

Weather is not the only factor that goes into growing good grapes to make wine. The type of soil plays a huge part, as do native parasites. Both factors can determine what type of grapes can be planted. For example, here in Texas Iron Chlorosis, Cotton Root Rot, Pierce’s Disease, Phylloxera and Nematodes make it impossible to grow grapes suitable for making good wine in a lot of areas. Add in the fact that there has been a drought in Texas that began just as the state’s wine country was just starting to gain some recognition, forcing many winemakers to buy grapes from out of state, and you can see how difficult it is for new regions to develop.

Making it more difficult is that some varietals sell better than others, but making good wine requires letting the earth dictate what grapes are grown. Trying to force the earth to produce grapes based on what is marketable is not a recipe for success. Even Napa and Sonoma have to deal with this issue. I have yet to taste a fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma, but Napa growers can only wish they could produce Syrahs, Petite Sirahs, Zinfandels and Pinot Noirs like their next-door neighbors. The reasons for this are way too numerous for this post to cover, but suffice it to say that growers are free to plant whatever they want, but Mother Nature will decide if it is any good.

For all of these reasons, I can say that I have not yet had a good Texas wine. I have, however, had a few that make me hopeful that one day I will. On the flip side there are many unconventional regions that have become quite successful. Besides the two most well known regions, Washington and Oregon, on the other side of the country Virginia and New York are making a name for themselves by growing grapes that do well in their areas.

There is something else that is driving the popularity of wines from those 4 states; their residents truly love them and evangelize constantly. This is a very important component of the equation. However, the wine is the most important part. When natives of Oregon began proselytizing about their wines it would have been enough to get people to try them. If the wine was bad or mediocre those same people would have just written Oregonians off as nutjobs with no taste. Oregon’s wine was, in fact, wonderful.

All of the evangelizing in the world will not make sub-par wine palatable to wine lovers. In fact, it may have a negative effect because once the region’s winemakers begin to actually produce better juice, those same wine lovers are likely to be a harder sell because they already had to politely drink the evangelized plonk and pretend they liked it once before. Why should they expect it to be better now?

If you live in a region that has a developing wine region then you should talk about it honestly with other wine lovers. My home state of Ohio, once the largest producer of wine in the nation, supposedly is making better wine these days. While I may have nostalgic memories of ice cold Catawba wines swilled from plastic cups on a hot day out on some island in the middle of Lake Erie, Ohio will have to do considerably better than that before I start pushing it. I haven’t had anything great from Ohio, but it would make me happy to be able to say differently some day. Same as with Texas wine.

Honestly promoting wine from your area means understanding why you love them. Is it because you grew up with the taste? Is it pride in your home? Or has the wine actually become top-notch? When others do not share your opinion of your local wine it isn’t likely to be because they are not capable of discerning the wonders that you find. Do not try and defend a McDonald’s hamburger by claiming that someone who says that they are of low quality has had their palates wrecked by eating too much dry-aged sirloin. That isn’t going to convince them that you are correct, it will only make them think that you are an asshole with poor taste. Feel free to love Pabst Blue Ribbon. Do not, however, try to make the argument that it is superior to Chimay, only those bastard Belgian monks have hoodwinked everyone into destroying their palates with their evil Trappist ales, and no one tastes the subtleties that only you seem to know exist.

That would be foolish and counterproductive. Instead, be honest. And, instead of insulting people, see if you can find an excellent example of what you love so much and see if the wine can convince them. If it can’t, what chance do your words have of doing so?

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