Thursday, August 4, 2011

Why local hooch is good

Recently, I have participated in a couple of County Fairs as a wine judge. The entrants were all home winemakers, and about 80% of the wines were made from fruit other than grapes. Historically, I had scoffed at fruit wines. As wisdom (perhaps) has crept in, I've begun to philosophically understand the importance of these wines.

I was surprised at how much I loved a few of the wines I tasted, especially a local blueberry wine that was mostly dry. The local fruit wines outshone the grape wines, either local or from kits. Local produce and the products made from local produce, usually, have the highest ceiling. No matter what anyone says, we just don't have great grapes to make wine from, so blueberries make a lot of sense.

This is a tremendous exercise for any wine professional. when you really start to delve into some 200 odd wines, made from a wide variety of different fruits, you begin to realize something: only grapes seem to present the "secondary" flavors that we associate with quality wines. Fruit wines, generally, taste like the fruit from which they came. Fruit wines also tend to surprise the seasoned wine cynics. They hit our palate and evoke memories long dormant (think of the ratatouille in "Ratatouille"). This really helped me to sort through the differences in cherries, raspberries, cranberries, etc on the palate

Making wine is difficult. It's tedious and messy. Making wine from fruit is as much a skill as canning or preserving, it's an important culinary trait. Grapes ultimately have more upside, but I suspect, it's much tougher to make wines from grapes than from fruit. Grape winemaking, must surely be the pinnacle of the fermented fruit arts, and tasting 200 good fruit wines, helped me to remember the skill it takes to ferment clean, and create wines that are even drinkable, let alone trans-formative.

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